By John Ensor •
Updated: 26 Sep 2023 • 16:28
Stock image of air traffic controllers.
ANOTHER crisis has hit the UK’s air traffic control at Gatwick Airport, partly due to a coronavirus outbreak, meaning yet more frustration for travellers.
A significant number of flights at London Gatwick Airport have faced cancellations due to a temporary restriction imposed following a shortage of air traffic control staff, causing widespread disruption, writes the Evening Standard.
Over 160 flights have been called off at Gatwick Airport, with the airport enforcing a temporary daily cap on flights. This measure, in place until October 1, aims to mitigate further delays and cancellations. The airport is operating with a restriction to 800 flights daily, with Friday anticipated to be the most challenging day.
The cause behind this disruption is attributed to illness among air traffic control staff. NATS, the UK’s air traffic control service provider, disclosed that 30 per cent of its workforce is currently unavailable, including some members who have tested positive for Covid-19.
Gatwick CEO, Stewart Wingate, announced: ‘This has been a difficult decision but the action we have taken today means our airlines can fly reliable flight programmes, which gives passengers more certainty that they will not face last-minute cancellations.’
NATS is actively training additional staff and anticipates new air traffic controllers to join the Gatwick tower in the upcoming months, in preparation for the next summer. The statement from NATS highlighted the complexity of qualifying at Gatwick, noting that even experienced controllers require at least nine months due to the airport’s busy nature.
Data from FlightRadar24 revealed that 64 flights were cancelled on Sunday and Monday. EasyJet one of the most significantly affected airlines, expressed disappointment as passengers experienced delays, with eight flights to and from Belfast cancelled among others.
An easyJet spokesperson expressed: ‘We are extremely disappointed that customers are once again being impacted by this and while this is outside of our control, we are sorry for the inconvenience caused to our customers.’
This incident follows a technical glitch in August affecting the National Air Traffic Services control system, resulting in a substantial number of cancellations.
Furthermore, Gatwick is bracing for strikes this week, with Aslef members, representing train drivers, planning industrial action affecting 16 train operating companies, including Southern, which operates the Gatwick Express.
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Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina.
He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.
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