Air traffic control fault sees passengers stuck in Bank Holiday travel chaos

Thousands of holidaymakers trying to fly in and out of the UK are still experiencing major delays after a technical issue with air traffic control, as Chloe Keedy reports

Holidaymakers have been hit by severe Bank Holiday travel delays after a UK air traffic control failure on Monday meant flight plans had to be input manually.

The "technical issue" behind the chaos was "identified and remedied" on Monday afternoon, but flights across the country remain significantly disrupted.

The National Air Traffic Services (NATS), the country’s leading provider of air traffic control service, said it is working with airlines and airports to manage the flights affected.

It apologised for the disruption caused by the failure, which has left air passengers across the UK and abroad worried about how and when they will reach their destination.

Major UK airlines quickly warned of "significant delays" for passengers amid changes to schedules.

On Monday night, Heathrow Airport advised air travellers to contact their airline before going to the airport on Tuesday.

In a statement it said, "We apologise for any inconvenience as a result of the NATS technical issues today. The issue has been resolved however schedules remain significantly disrupted. If you are travelling on 29th August, please ensure you contact your airline before travelling to the airport."

Juliet Kennedy, operations director at NATS, said the issue meant the automatic system that provides controllers with details of every aircraft and its route had stopped working, and what happened will be investigated "very thoroughly".

Ms Kennedy added: “Our teams worked hard to resolve the problem, and I’m pleased to say it was fixed earlier on this afternoon. However, it will take some time for flights to return to normal. “And we will continue to work with the airlines and the airports to recover the situation. Our absolute priority is safety and we will be investigating very thoroughly what happened today. “Again, I would like to apologise for the impact on the travelling public and to tell you that our teams will continue to work to get you on your way as soon as we can.”

Passengers at Belfast International Airport, as flights to the UK and Ireland were cancelled. Credit: PA

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said he and Aviation Minister Charlotte Vere were working with NATS "to help them manage affected flights and support passengers".

He later said: "I'd encourage all passengers to read @UK_CAA's guidance and be aware of their rights when flights are delayed or cancelled".

Figures from aviation analyst Cirium show that 232 flights due to leave the UK were cancelled on Monday, while 271 flights that were scheduled to land into UK airports were cancelled.

This equates to about 8% of all expected departures and 9% of expected arrivals, Cirium added.

Speaking to broadcasters on Monday, the Home Secretary Suella Braverman said she sympathised with anyone affected by the problems.

"I am very cognisant that this will disrupt people's travel plans - those who are waiting to arrive in the UK, those waiting to depart, and I do sympathise with any disruption they may be experiencing," she said.

Which airlines and airports have been affected?

British Airways had to make “significant changes to its schedule” in light of the disruption.

The airline posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, saying: “Like all airlines using UK airspace, our flights are being severely disrupted by a major issue affecting NATS air traffic control.

“As a result, we have had to make significant changes to our schedule today.

“If you are travelling on a short-haul service today, Monday August 28, please do not travel to the airport without checking the status of your flight, as it may no longer be operating.

“You can do this by visiting and checking your email inbox.”

Ryanair was also forced to delay or cancel a number of flights to and from the UK.

The airline said all affected passengers will be notified and given the option to change to another Ryanair flight or receive a full refund.

A statement from easyJet to passengers said they had been "advised of an air traffic control issue currently affecting all flights due to fly into or out of United Kingdom airspace."

Tui also warned of “significant delays” due to the air traffic control outage.

Scottish airline Loganair said the issue was "a network-wide failure of UK air traffic control computer systems this morning."

Passengers already on board planes headed for the UK took to social media to report they'd been told a problem with air traffic control was keeping them grounded.

One of the passengers whose plans were rocked by the disruption was broadcaster Gabby Logan, who was on a plane on the runway at Budapest airport.

Posting on X, she said passengers were told they could be waiting up to 12 hours.

Meanwhile, on Monday night many others were still waiting for news on how and when they will reach their intended destination.

Affected UK airports include London Gatwick, London Heathrow, Luton, Stansted, Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Belfast City, Leeds Bradford, and Cardiff.

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