Nats has ‘let down customers all summer’ says EasyJet boss

EasyJet planes Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Air traffic control provider National Air Traffic Services (Nats) has “let down customers all summer”, according to easyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren.

42 flights at Gatwick were cancelled or diverted and many more were delayed on Thursday night.

The problems were blamed on a staffing shortage in the control tower at the West Sussex airport.

There was a similar incident on 6 September, and a Nats technical glitch on 28 August caused widespread disruption at airports across the UK.

Mr Lundgren said: “Persistent staff shortages at Nats have plagued the industry and repeatedly let down customers all summer, having caused more than a month’s worth of disruption.

“This cannot be allowed to continue.

“Immediate action must be taken to fix the staffing shortages now while a more wide-ranging review examines broader issues to ensure Nats delivers robust services to passengers now and in the future.”

The Nats control room in Swanwick, Hampshire. Credit: ITV Meridian

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary called on the boss of Nats to resign.

He said: “It is unacceptable that more flights and hundreds of passengers are suffering delays to/from Gatwick Airport due to Nats CEO Martin Rolfe’s blatant failure to adequately staff UK ATC.

“Airlines are paying millions of pounds to Nats each and every year and should not have to see their passengers suffer avoidable delays due to UK ATC staff shortages.”

Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive of Advantage Travel Partnership, a network of independent travel agents, told the PA news agency: “The situation at Gatwick is unacceptable.

“This kind of disruption causes havoc for travellers and has huge financial implications for airlines, travel agents and the entire ecosystem.”

Gatwick is the UK’s second busiest airport. Credit: Nick Ansell/PA

Tim Alderslade, chief executive of industry body Airlines UK, said: “The delays we are seeing at Gatwick are not acceptable and the travelling public deserve better.

“Nats consistently reassured airlines, airports and the Government that it could deliver this summer. This was clearly not the case.

“This latest round of disruption cannot go on and there needs to be a deep review of how Nats works to ensure that it delivers robust and resilient services for the UK public.”

Nats said in a statement: “We are working closely with Gatwick Airport Ltd to build resilience in the airport’s control tower to ensure disruption is kept to a minimum.

“New air traffic controllers have been recruited since last summer, increasing our presence by 17%, and others are due to start after completing their training, in line with the agreed plan when Nats took over the contract last October.”

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