Airlines are scrambling to restore normal flight operations in the UK and repatriate stranded passengers after an hours-long air-traffic outage led to hundreds of delays and cancellations on one of the busiest days this travel season.
(Bloomberg) — Airlines are scrambling to restore normal flight operations in the UK and repatriate stranded passengers after an hours-long air-traffic outage led to hundreds of delays and cancellations on one of the busiest days this travel season.
British Airways and EasyJet Plc told passengers due to fly on Tuesday that they shouldn’t travel to the airport without checking the status of their flight as it may be delayed or canceled. Both carriers were also offering those due to depart Monday or Tuesday free changes to flights to a later date, with EasyJet also offering refunds, according to each carrier’s website.
London Heathrow showed 23 delayed flights and 29 cancellations on Tuesday, according to Flightradar24. That compares with more than 170 axed flights on Monday. Gatwick airport, the second major hub in London, suffered 23 cancellations on Tuesday, the data show.
Even as the systems were restored at UK airspace manager NATS, returning to normal service could take several days because aircraft will be put out of position. The glitch on Monday coincided with one of the most active extended travel weekends, with the UK off on a national holiday and summer-vacation travelers returning home.
“While the majority of passengers will still be able to travel, there will unfortunately be some disruption on some routes, including flight cancellations,” a spokesperson for London’s Heathrow airport said. “It is important for all passengers to check the status of their flight with their airline before traveling to Heathrow.”
The meltdown on Monday occurred after the automated flight planning system was knocked out at the central Swanwick operations room about 100 kilometers (60 miles) southwest of London. That forced planners to revert to manual input, meaning they couldn’t manage the same volumes.
While NATS gave no cause for the glitch, The Times reported that issue could have been the result of an incorrectly filed plan by a French airline, according to sources it didn’t identify.
(Updates with delay figures, reported possible cause)
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