More air traffic control chaos after Gatwick 'short notice sickness'

Thousands of passengers are hit by more air traffic control cancellations after ‘short notice sickness’ in Gatwick tower restricted number of planes that could take off and land

  • Passengers hit by cancellations after sick staff at air traffic control at Gatwick

Thousands of airline passengers were hit by more flight cancellations last night due to an air traffic control (ATC) issue at Gatwick.

Gatwick Airport said it was subjected to a restriction in the number of planes that could take off and land because of ‘short notice sickness’ in its ATC tower, which is managed by National Air Traffic Services (Nats).

EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren warned that passengers were ‘being let down once again’ and claimed Nats’ ‘staff shortages’ had caused disruption at Gatwick on 29 days since May.

A Nats technical glitch last week caused widespread disruption at airports across the UK, leaving thousands of holidaymakers stranded overseas for several days.

Analysis of flight data websites suggests around 58 flights to or from Gatwick – the UK’s second busiest airport – were cancelled on Wednesday night, meaning around 9,000 passengers were affected.

Gatwick Airport said it was subjected to a restriction in the number of planes that could take off and land because of ‘short notice sickness’ in its air traffic control tower (file photo), which is managed by National Air Traffic Services (Nats).

EasyJet, which operates the most flights at the West Sussex airport, was the worst affected, with 42 cancellations.

READ MORE: Air traffic control system failure that disrupted more than 300,000 travellers was ‘one in 15million’ event, expert claims

A ‘one in 15 million’ computer failure in Britain’s air traffic control system was to blame for the Bank Holiday meltdown in UK flight operations. Pictured: Passengers waiting at Stansted Airport on August 29 after flights were delayed

The first flight affected by the disruption appeared to be the airline’s arrival from the Greek island of Zakynthos, which was diverted to Luton.

EasyJet said in a statement: ‘Nats air traffic control staffing shortages at Gatwick yesterday led to a significantly reduced flow rate being imposed on airlines, meaning some flights were delayed and some were unable to operate.

‘While this was outside of our control, we are sorry for the inconvenience caused to our customers and did all possible to minimise the impact of the disruption, notifying those on cancelled flights of options to rebook or receive a refund and provided hotel accommodation and meals where required.’

Among the other airlines to cancel flights from Gatwick on Wednesday night were Lufthansa, Norwegian, Iberia Express and Vueling.

Affected passengers are not entitled to compensation as the disruption was outside of the airlines’ control.

A Gatwick Airport spokeswoman said: ‘Due to short-notice sickness in the air traffic control tower, temporary air traffic control restrictions were put in place yesterday (Wednesday), resulting in some delays and cancellations by airlines.

‘London Gatwick would like to apologise to any passengers who have been impacted by these restrictions. Please contact your airline for more information.’

Passengers wait at Gatwick Airport, south of London, on August 29 after UK flights were delayed over a technical issue

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) announced on Wednesday that an independent review would be carried out into last week’s ATC failure.

Mr Lundgren said: ‘Customers are being let down once again. Since May, we have seen 29 days of traffic restrictions at Gatwick due to Nats’ staff shortages.

‘An independent and wide-ranging review of Nats has never been more urgent.’

Nats was approached for a comment.

Passengers departing from UK airports and ports also saw longer wait times on Wednesday due to enhanced security checks as the authorities search for an escaped prisoner.

Daniel Abed Khalife, 21, a former soldier accused of terrorism, went missing in his cook’s uniform from HMP Wandsworth, south-west London on Wednesday.

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