September 27, 2023

Brighton Journal

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An air traffic failure in the UK is set to disrupt flights for several days

An air traffic failure in the UK is set to disrupt flights for several days
  • About 1,500 flights were canceled on Monday
  • The effects of the beating last for several days
  • Ryanair asks questions about the lack of a backup system

LONDON, Aug 29 (Reuters) – The British government was working with airlines on Tuesday to help ensure that passengers stranded at airports across Europe can get home after a disruption in air traffic control caused widespread disruption to flights expected to last for several days.

More than 1,500 flights were canceled on Monday – a public holiday in parts of Britain, and one of the busiest days for travel as the end of school holidays approaches – when air traffic controllers had to switch to manual systems due to a technical problem.

This has left thousands of passengers stranded at airports in Europe and beyond.

“We were stuck in the airport for about seven or eight hours yesterday. We were left high and dry,” said Maria Ball, a tourist from Liverpool in northwest England.

She said she ended up at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, having finally found a flight to Edinburgh and then had to make a four-hour trip in a rental car to get home when she landed.

Martin Rolfe, chief executive of Britain’s National Air Traffic Service (NATS), apologized for the technical glitch on Tuesday and said initial investigations into the problem showed it related to some of the flight data it had received.

“Our systems, both primary and backup, have responded by suspending automatic processing to ensure that incorrect safety information is not provided to the air traffic controller or impacts the rest of the air traffic system,” Rolfe said in a statement. .

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Mark Harper, the transport secretary, warned it would take days to resolve the issues, although the bug was fixed a few hours later on Monday. The cancellations affected airlines’ schedules, meaning planes and crews were misplaced.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he understood people were feeling frustrated.

“The transport minister is in constant dialogue with all industry participants,” Sunak said. “He will be speaking with the airlines specifically later today and will make sure they support passengers to get home as quickly as possible.”

Harper chaired a meeting Tuesday with NATS, the Civil Aviation Authority, airlines, airports, trade agencies and border forces. He said the government would review the NATS report in the coming days.

Harper said government officials do not believe the technical issue, the first on this scale in a decade, was the result of a cyberattack.

Flight analytics company Cirium said 790 flights departing from British airports had been cancelled, as well as 785 flights scheduled to arrive on Monday, meaning just over a quarter of all flights to and from the country were affected.

Michael O’Leary, president of Ryanair (RYA.I), Europe’s largest airline, said the airline would be operating on a normal schedule by Wednesday, and criticized how NATS handled the situation.

“We have yet to get an explanation from them, what exactly caused this failure yesterday and where their backup systems were,” O’Leary said in a video posted to X, formerly known as Twitter.

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British Airways said it was working hard to “get back on track” and offered passengers on short-haul flights to change their flight times for free.

EasyJet (EZJ.L) said the adverse impact meant some flights were canceled on Tuesday morning.

Heathrow, Britain’s busiest airport, asked passengers to contact their airlines before traveling to the airport on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Sarah Young in London) Additional reporting by Padrick Halpin in Dublin and Farouk Suleiman in London (Editing by Mike Harrison and Matthew Lewis)

Our standards: Principles of Trust for Thomson Reuters.

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Sarah reports on breaking news in the UK, with a focus on British businesses. She has been part of the UK desk for 12 years and covers everything from airlines to energy to the royal family, politics and sport. She is an avid open water swimmer.