No flight cancellations expected during largest NATO air drill in history

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LONDON (Reuters) – NATO’s largest ever air deployment exercise, set to take place in June, is unlikely to lead to commercial flight cancellations, Europe’s lead air traffic manager said, after Germany’s aviation industry expressed worries that it could cause disruption.

“We do not anticipate that there will be any need for air operators to make cancellations in order to accommodate the needs of the exercise,” Eurocontrol told Reuters in a statement.

Air Defender 23 will be one of the largest air drills in NATO history, with 25 countries taking part in the joint exercise in German, Dutch and Czech airspace. It will use air corridors that have often been used for training purposes, according to the German air force.

Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year, the commercial airspace over Ukraine has been closed. That has led to less available commercial airspace in Europe, resulting in more traffic gathering over the south of the continent.

Air traffic control strikes in France and elsewhere have exacerbated that limited airspace, increasing fears of costly cancellations and delays across the continent.

Germany’s aviation sector in particular was concerned about the exercise’s detrimental impact on commercial aviation. German industry group BDLS has called for tight coordination around the drill to prevent disruption.

“Coordinated action will allow this major military event to take place while, at the same time, accommodating civil air traffic with the lowest possible impact in terms of air traffic delays and re-routing actions,” Eurocontrol added.

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