UK air traffic control outage to cause chaos for days

The United Kingdom government on Tuesday said that though the air traffic control ‘technical issue’ that led to the severe disruption of hundreds of flights and left thousands of passengers stranded has been resolved, routes will continue to be affected for some days as airlines scramble to recover from the domino effect on their schedules.

However, Transport Secretary Mark Harper stressed that the air traffic control outage behind the chaos on Monday was not caused by a cybersecurity incident.

UK Transport Secretary Mark Harper said that while the technical issue has been resolved, flights will continue to be affected as airlines scramble to recover from the domino effect on their schedules and accommodate stranded passengers on alternate flights.

The British media said a technical fault on Monday caused the automatic system for processing flights to not work, meaning things had to be handled manually — slowing down the process.

As the spectre of a hacking attempt was raised across social media, the minister also dismissed that as a factor behind one of the worst air system failures seen in the country in at least a decade.

Harper said it would take ‘some days to get completely everybody to where they should be’.

“Something on this scale hasn’t happened for almost a decade normally the system works very well,” Harper told Sky News.

Our technical experts have looked at it and are clear that it wasn’t a cybersecurity incident, he said.

The Cabinet minister said there would be an independent review into what happened and a report is expected in the coming days.

The system was fixed yesterday (Monday) afternoon and things are getting back to normal but there’s obviously some disruption that’s going to continue today for people, and I know thousands of people have been impacted, he told GB News.

Airlines will be stepping up, I hope, to their responsibilities to make sure that they get people back home, get them on an alternative flight and deal with food and drink and accommodation in the meantime, he said.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said Harper was in ‘constant dialogue’ with all the industry participants and would be talking to airlines on Tuesday.

More than 500 flights were cancelled on one of the busiest days of the year after a fault at National Air Traffic Services (NATS), which was resolved after nearly five hours on Monday one of the busiest travel days of the year as the last Bank Holiday for the summer break.

We have identified and remedied the technical issue affecting our flight planning system this (Monday) morning. We are now working closely with airlines and airports to manage the flights affected as efficiently as possible.

Our engineers will be carefully monitoring the system’s performance as we return to normal operations, said NATS, the country’s leading provider of air traffic control services handling 2.5 million flights and 250 million passengers a year.

There have been reports of fists flying and fiery scenes as passengers vent their frustration at being left stranded in some cases on planes on the tarmac and others in the departure lounges of airports around the world.

Heathrow, the UK’s busiest airport, said its services will remain significantly disrupted and urged passengers to contact their airline before travelling to the airport.

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, it said.

According to aviation data firm Cirium, 790 departing flights were cancelled on Monday, which it said was equivalent to about 27 per cent of all departures, and 785, or about 27 per cent, of incoming flights.

Heathrow had the highest number of cancellations, Cirium said, followed by Gatwick and Manchester, it said.

Among the passengers stranded amid the travel chaos are members of the British team who have been competing at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest.

London Gatwick said it plans to operate a normal schedule on Tuesday following the disruption.

However, passengers have been advised to check the status of their flight with their airline before travelling to the airport.

London Stansted airport also said it planned to run a normal flight schedule on Tuesday, but added ‘our terminal may be busier than anticipated’.

Outside of London, Glasgow said a handful of flights will be disrupted as a result of Monday’s issue, while departure boards at Manchester and Bristol airports show a small number of services have been cancelled.
British Airways appears to be the worst affected airline and other airlines also warned of “significant delays” for passengers amid changes to schedules, with airports urging travellers to check with their flight operators before they head to the terminal, in case of delays and changes.
According to the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), an airline has a duty of care to provide food, drink and accommodation if delays stretch overnight. If a flight is cancelled, passengers should be offered a choice of a refund or alternative travel arrangements at the earliest opportunity. PTI AK AMS AKJ

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