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28th Aug 2023

Planes grounded to and from UK due to air traffic control ‘technical issue’

Steve Hopkins

More than 6,000 flights were due in and out of UK today

Air traffic control is currently experiencing “a technical issue” and has restricted UK flight traffic while it is being fixed, with reports suggesting the problem could last days.

The National Air Traffic Controller Service (Nats) told the BBC the issue is affecting its ability to automatically process flight plans – the information air traffic controllers need to know about where an aircraft is flying from and at what time, along with where it’s going and the route it will take to get there.

“Until our engineers have resolved this, flight plans are being input manually which means we cannot process them at the same volume, hence we have applied traffic flow restrictions,” a spokesperson told the broadcaster.

“Our technical experts are looking at all possible solutions to rectify this as quickly as possible. Nats reiterates the top priority is ensuring every flight in the UK remains safe as it advises any passengers travelling to contact their airline.

While thousands of passengers are facing delays, it is not known exactly how many passengers and flights are impacted, more than 6,000 flights wee due in and out of the UK on Monday. Aviation data firm Cirium says 3,049 flights were due to depart UK airports in total today, and a further 3,054 flights are scheduled to arrive.

Michele Robson, who used to work in air traffic control, told BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme that technical issues normally “only last a couple of hours” so Monday’s shutdown is “unusual.”

She added that this means, “nobody really knows at this point how long it’s going to take”.

Those waiting to depart at airports have been told to keep checking the flight information at the terminal, while people already on planes will be updated by crew.

What airports are saying:

Airport across the country and Ireland have responded to the news, mainly saying the same thing. Heathrow is advising passengers to check with their airline; London Luton and Birmingham are saying they are working to understand the issue and when normal operation can resume; Liverpool John Lennon says aircraft can still be loaded on time, but there are delays; Manchester is operating as usual; RyanAir passengers at Standsted have told PA Media they’ve been told to wait at their gates; Gatwick is experiencing disruptions and the airport is advising passengers to check with their airlines; Edinburgh Airport has advised passengers not to head there before checking with their airline; officials in Scotland say they’re monitoring the situation and Dublin Airport says the issue is causing delays and cancellations in and out of the capital.

This is what the airlines have said:

Jet2 says the fault has affected “all airlines”, and that “all flights departing and returning to the UK are expected to experience significant delays”; British Airways and Wizz Air have both said they’re “working closely” with Nats to get to grips with the issue and keep passengers informed; Ryanair has joined other airlines in issuing an apology to affected passengers, and stating the issue is beyond its control; Aer Lingus says the issue has meant “severe restrictions on all flights into the UK and flying over UK airspace today”, Tui has told customers: “Monitor the departure boards or your emails for further updates”. Virgin Atlantic has a similar message; its passengers have been urged to check their flight status in advance on the airline’s website. Loganair earlier reported a “network-wide failure of UK air traffic control systems this morning”

Check back for updates.

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