UK airspace could see its busiest day ever as football fans jet off to the Champions League final in Spain.
Some 9,000 flights are predicted to operate on Friday, beating the all-time daily record of 8,854 set on May 25 2018.
May 31 will see a surge in chartered flights and private jets departing the UK for Madrid as Liverpool and Tottenham fans travel to the Champions League final.
Air traffic control (ATC) provider Nats said it expects 600 extra charter and private jet fights this weekend, on top of the 8,000-plus flights handled on a normal May day.
They have warned that delays are possible, due to “limited capacity on the ground at some airports and in the air”.
A spokeswoman for Nats said: “With two English teams contesting the title we’re expecting to handle up to 800 extra flights between Friday and Sunday, ferrying tens of thousands of fans to the Spanish capital and back, with Madrid airport themselves expected to handle a record number of flights, with over 1,100 biz-jet and 400 charter movements planned over the three days.
“We’re expecting around 400 additional charter flights – which will include airlines moving aircraft around to get them in the right place – and then over 200 private jet movements. And that’s on top of the 8,000+ flights we’d handle on a normal May day.
“Looking after those extra flights on top of what is already the busiest time of year is a huge undertaking, so together with the airports and airlines, we’ll be doing everything we can to get people to the game on time and home again, safely.
“There is no doubt this is going to be a challenging weekend, with limited capacity on the ground at some airports and in the air making delays possible.”
Last Friday, which had been forecast to be the busiest to date, fell just shy of the record, with 8,742 flights taking place.
As the UK’s skies get busier, the Government has announced plans to modernise airspace, which it said will increase environmental benefits and reduce journey times.
The Department for Transport (DfT), which likened airspace to a motorway, said infrastructure in the sky has not been updated in more than 50 years and added that its plans will increase capacity and cut delays.
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Aviation Minister Baroness Vere said: “Like our road and rail infrastructure on the ground, we need to keep our infrastructure in the sky up to date to keep people moving.
“It hasn’t fundamentally changed since the 1950s, and, without action, one in three flights could face delays of half an hour or more by 2030.
“It is a complex and pressing task, but it will make flying cleaner, quieter and quicker, as we make our aviation sector one of the greenest in the world."
The plans, which could see planes burning a fifth less fuel – equivalent to 400,000 fewer flights a year – include increasing the number of flight paths and planes making greater use of GPS-like equipment, meaning flights will be more direct.
The DfT also said plans for greater communication between air traffic controllers and planes so they can regulate their speed and be timed to come straight in for a landing slot would avoid them having to wait in queues and circle as they do now.
Nats welcomed the plans, saying: “It will mean we can better manage noise, reduce carbon emissions and minimise delays.”