Flight delays as English air traffic control restored
Thousands of passengers in UK and Ireland have been affected due to technical problems
Passengers waiting at Dublin Airport this afternoon. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw
Flights to England from Ireland are set to gradually begin to return to normal this evening after technical problems with air traffic control over southern England which caused major delays were rectified.
Would-be passengers are asked to check with airlines for confirmation of flights before heading for airports.
Air traffic management company NATS said the technical problems in England had been resolved at about 7.30pm this evening, via its Twitter feed.
Flight updates on Twitter
Technical problems have been resolved and operations are now returning to normal >> http://t.co/gbUBdBw4bH— NATS (@NATSPressOffice) December 7, 2013
It said: "As of 19.30 we had handled 3,250 flights today - around 90% of the traffic handled last Saturday (3,613 flights).
"Our apologies again to everyone who was affected by today's outage."
Hundreds of Irish passengers have been affected as dozens of flights were delayed during the day and at least 15 were cancelled to and from Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports.
The issue caused major delays at several airports in the UK where hundreds of flights were cancelled, including London’s Gatwick, Stansted, Luton and London City, as well as Glasgow, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Dundee, Southampton and Liverpool. There were 217 flights cancelled at Heathrow alone.
Flights between Ireland and England and continental Europe were affected.
NATS earlier said it expected the faults at the Swanwick air traffic control center in southern England to be fixed by 6pm.
The problem was “due to difficulty switching from night-time to a daytime operation”, NATS said in a statement.
Ryanair said over 100 flights to and from the south of England were affected.
It also called on the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority to intervene and “prevent further chaos for thousands of passengers.”
“While we acknowledge problems can occur, where is the contingency? It’s simply not good enough and the CAA needs to act now,” it said.
Ryanair said the “equipment failure” within UK air traffic control which will cause “significant flight delays and possible cancellations”.
Among delays the airline listed today were its flight from London Luton to Dublin, London Stansted to Dublin, Dublin to Birmingham, Dublin to Newcastle and Cork to London Stantsted. Ryanair updates are here. Aer Lingus said the air traffic control issue was causing disription to its schedule today. It advised pasengers to check their flight status here.
Aer Lingus flights from Dublin to London Heathrow, Amsterdam and Hamburg were cancelled. Air France and British Airways flights from Dublin were also cancelled.
Dublin Airport advised passengers to check the website of their airline for information.
NATS earlier said the issue arose at its control centre in Swanwick, Hampshire, in the early hours of the morning when a computing glitch meant the night-time operation failed to properly switch over to the daytime system.
“At night, when it’s quiet, we can combine sectors of airspace. When it gets busy in the daytime, we split the sectors out again. The voice communications system is configured to enable this to happen,” a Nats spokesman said.
“We experienced a technical problem in the early hours of this morning, which means that it hasn’t been possible to reconfigure the voice communications system to split out the sectors for the busier daytime traffic in some areas of the UK enroute airspace.
“Engineers are working to rectify the problem as soon as possible, but this is resulting in some delays. Safety has not been compromised at any time, and we sincerely apologise for any inconvenience being caused to passengers.”
Additional reporting PA/Bloomberg