Airlines and airports from across the UK have been seeking to calm passengers and the wider aviation industry after a technical issue hit the country’s air traffic control systems over a bank holiday this week.
While the issue has been resolved by NATS and flights should be returning to normal levels, many passengers are likely to continue experiencing delays and cancellations as airlines attempt to bring their staff and aircraft back in line with schedules.
A spokesperson for Heathrow Airport said: “Schedules continue to be affected by yesterday’s restrictions on UK airspace. While the majority of passengers will still be able to travel, there will unfortunately be some disruption on some routes, including flight cancellations.”
Manchester Airport also echoed similar sentiments and said: “There is obviously a backlog from yesterday to work through. Were it not for that, it would be business as usual, but because of that, it’s obviously going to be a very busy day for our airlines and we expect there to be some delays and cancellations.”
Gatwick, Edinburgh and Belfast International Airports also said that they were planning on running to a normal schedule but that passengers should still check with their airlines about possible changes to their flights.
On the airline side, Ryanair said it was trying to get its operations back on schedule after over 20 aircraft could not return to their home bases and expected some continued disruption as a result.
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The airline’s CEO Michael O’Leary also released a video statement to say that Ryanair had had to cancel about 250 flights due to the traffic restrictions on Monday, affecting 40,000 passengers and would be cancelling another 70 on August 29.
He said that the airline was hoping to be running as normal by August 30, adding: “We’re looking to run a couple of additional flights today, rescue flights, but it’s very difficult because we’re tight on crews, we’re also tight on aircraft.”
The outspoken CEO also criticised NATS for not telling the airline what had happened and for not having backup systems, saying: “It’s not acceptable that UK NATS simply allow their computer systems to be taken down and everybody’s flights get cancelled or delayed.”
Jet2.com also said that it would be adding extra flights to its schedule but expected more delays, with an update from the airline saying: “We would of course like to apologise to everyone that is affected by this situation, which is unfortunately completely outside of our control and await the outcome of the CAA National Air Traffic Services investigation into what happened.”
British Airways expressed similar concerns about continuing knock-on effects but clarified that it is offering customers on short-haul services the opportunity to move flights to a later date for free.
Meanwhile, Virgin Atlantic did not experience mass cancellations; the airline said that its VS231 and VS232 flights from Heathrow to Austin and back were cancelled but had experienced delays and said more were still likely.