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UK government orders review into air traffic control chaos

29th Aug 2023 13:44

(Alliance News) - The UK government on Tuesday ordered a review after the country's air traffic control system suffered its worst disruption in almost ten years, stranding thousands of passengers.  

Flights departing and arriving in the UK continued to be cancelled one day after air traffic control systems were temporarily hit by a technical fault.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said there would be an independent review into the worst incident of its kind for "nearly a decade" and that is expected to last well into the week.

"This was a technical fault. We do not think this was a cybersecurity incident," he told GB News.

The last Monday of August, a public holiday in Britain, traditionally sees large numbers of passengers returning from summer vacations.

"I know people will be enormously frustrated by the disruption that's impacting them," Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said in a broadcast statement.

"Thankfully things like this are rare and the issue itself was fixed in a matter of hours, but the disruption obviously is continuing and will last for a little while longer."

The National Air Traffic Services said it "identified and remedied" a technical issue which forced it to impose traffic flow restrictions.

NATS said the issue meant flight plans had to be processed manually, while it indicated to AFP that hundreds of flights had been affected and that it would take "several days" for the situation to return to normal.

London's main airports continued to be affected with Heathrow and Gatwick cancelling dozens of flights Tuesday.

International Consolidated Airlines Group SA's British Airways was the worst affected airline.

Aviation analytics company Cirium said 790 departures and 785 arrivals were cancelled across all UK airports on Monday.

That was equivalent to just over one quarter of planned flights, dealing a blow to the sector following its recent strong recovery from the Covid shutdown. 

"We expect some flight cancellations and considerable flight delays today caused by this latest, still unexplained, NATS failure," no-frills carrier Ryanair said in a statement Tuesday.

Angry passengers took to social media, demanding a far better response from airlines. 

"Already we're seeing worrying reports of passengers being left stranded without support, and airlines failing to properly communicate with their passengers or fulfil their legal obligations," said Rory Boland, travel editor at consumer-advice publication Which?

He noted that carriers were obliged to offer "timely rerouting" or provide overnight accommodation.

source: AFP

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