UK & World News

  • 8 December 2013, 12:14

Air Traffic Control Glitch Delays Continue

Dozens of passengers have been forced to spend the night in airports after an air traffic control glitch caused major delays across the UK and Ireland.

The now-fixed computer problem spread chaos throughout Britain's airports as hundreds of flights were delayed or cancelled, creating disruption for thousands of passengers.

While the disruption is likely to have a knock-on effect today, the three main London airports predicted a largely trouble-free day.

At Heathrow, eight arrivals and four departures were cancelled. At Gatwick, there were three delayed flights but "no significant disruptions". Stansted confirmed a normal flight schedule but advised passengers to check with their airlines before setting out.

The National Air Traffic Service (Nats) is investigating the glitch which it said was fixed at 7.30pm on Saturday night.

The firm said the computerised telephone system, which air traffic controllers use to handle flights, failed to switch correctly from night time to day time mode.

It meant they had to carry out the process manually, leading to 8% of all air traffic in Europe - around 1,300 flights - being delayed.

The problem occurred when the 23 controllers on a night shift at Swanwick, in Hampshire, handed over to the 125 controllers on the day shift at 6am on Saturday morning.

Nats said that by 4pm they had handled 2,576 flights compared with the 2,905 flights that were dealt with at the same time last week, meaning they were operating at about 88% of normal capacity.

Ryanair called for action to prevent it happening again.

In a statement, the airline said: "Ryanair is calling on the Civil Aviation Authority to intervene and prevent further chaos for thousands of passengers affected by this ATC failure. While we acknowledge problems can occur, where is the contingency? It's simply not good enough and the CAA needs to act now."

Heathrow Airport was the worst affected, with 228 cancellations - 112 arrivals and 116 departures - on Saturday.

A spokesman for the airport said the cancellations represented 15% of their usual daily total of 1,300 flights going in and out of the airport.

Many passengers expressed their anger on Twitter and spoke of "chaotic scenes" at airports.

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