THE UK government was working with airlines on Tuesday (29) to help ensure passengers stranded in airports across Europe, after an air traffic control glitch the previous day caused widespread disruption to flights that is expected to last for days.
More than 1,500 flights were cancelled on bank holiday Monday (28), one of the busiest travel days of the year, in Britain. Air traffic controllers across the country were forced to switch to manual systems due to a technical problem.
That left thousands of passengers stuck at airports in Europe and further afield and the government on Tuesday ordered a review into what went wrong. Mark Harper, the transport secretary, warned that it would take days to resolve the issues. Even though the fault was fixed after a few hours on Monday, cancellations hit airline schedules meant planes and crews were out of place.
Ryanair, Europe’s biggest airline, would be operating a normal schedule by Wednesday (30), said boss Michael O’Leary. He criticised how the National Air Traffic Services (NATS) had handled the situation.
“We still haven’t had an explanation from them on what exactly caused this failure yesterday and where were their back-up systems,” O’Leary said in a video posted on X, formerly Twitter. The prime minister, Rishi Sunak, said he understood people were frustrated.
“The transport secretary is in constant dialogue with all the industry participants. He will be talking to airlines specifically later today and making sure that they support passengers to get home as quickly as possible,” Sunak said.
Harper said government officials did not believe that the technical problem, the first on this scale for a decade, was the result of a cyber attack.
Aviation analytics firm Cirium said 790 flights departing from British airports and 785 flights due to arrive were cancelled on Monday, meaning just over a quarter of all flights into or out of the country were affected.
British Airways said it was working hard “to get back on track” and had offered passengers flying short-haul routes to change their flight dates free of charge. EasyJet said the knock-on impact meant some flights were cancelled on Tuesday morning.
Heathrow told passengers to contact their airline before travelling to the airport on Tuesday. Air India on Monday said there was no significant impact on its flights to and from the UK.
Air India and Vistara, both part of the Tata Group, are the only Indian carriers operating flights to the UK. While Air India flies to London, Gatwick and Birmingham, Vistara operates services to London.
“There is no significant impact on our flights to and from the UK, as of now. We are actively monitoring the situation,” an Air India spokesperson said. Air India operates 98 weekly flights between cities in India and the UK.
Vistara has two flights between the two countries daily. There was no immediate comment from Vistara