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UK airports hit by flight cancellations due to ‘technical issue’

Hundreds of flights across Europe were canceled on Monday after Britain’s air traffic control service encountered a ‘technical glitch’ that caused widespread disruption on one of the country’s busiest travel days of the year.

More than 200 flights from Britain have been cancelled, according to Cirium, the aviation analysis firm, along with 271 due to arrive in the country on Monday. Many other flights would be delayed for more than eight hours, “which would inevitably lead to cancellation,” Cirium added.

NATS, Britain’s National Air Traffic Service, said a technical glitch had affected its ability to process flight plans automatically, meaning information had to be entered manually, slowing the process.

Even though British airspace was never closed, the NATS limited the number of flights departing from airports to maintain security while its engineers tried to fix the problem. At around 3 p.m. local time, NATS said it had resolved the issue, but noted that air traffic remained disrupted. The UK government holds a 49 per cent stake in NATS, which is a public-private partnership.

The delays hit during a particularly busy travel period, as people returned from summer holidays or extended trips on Britain’s ‘bank holiday’ or national day off Monday. Customers have been advised to check their flight status before traveling to airports.

Thousands of holidaymakers have spent hours stuck in airports or on the tarmac of the slopes, facing long delays or uncertain departure times.

In Palma de Mallorca, Jon Hughes, 49, boarded a plane bound for the English city of Leeds around 1 p.m. local time with his two children, aged 13 and 15. Once on board, he said, they were told the plane had been given a departure slot in around seven hours.

“It is very hot and the children are increasingly restless,” he said in a message. “We don’t know how long we’ll be stuck on the plane. Or even if we go home today.

British low-cost airline Jet2 said the issue was causing significant delays on “all flights to and from the UK”.

Low-cost airline Ryanair said on Monday it was forced to delay and cancel flights to and from Britain. Passengers could change flights or receive a full refund, it said in a statement.

Jamie Steele, 39, a British nurse back in Manchester after a holiday in the Italian city of Pisa, was due to leave at 10.30am local time. Four hours later, he was still sitting on the plane, on the tarmac. The pilot told passengers the plane would have a departure slot within the next three hours, but added he was “not sure if he could trust the time given”.

“It’s hard not to know what time we’ll be home,” Mr Steele said in a post.

Heathrow Airport, near London, has advised passengers to contact their airline before flying there, and Edinburgh Airport has asked passengers not to come before checking the status of their flight.

Louise Haigh, the transport policy legislator for the opposition Labor Party, describes the disturbance on social media as being “extremely concerning for passengers” on “one of the busiest days of the year”. She added that she was surprised the government’s transport minister had yet to make a statement.

Scottish airline Loganair warned on social media that there had been “a network-wide outage of UK air traffic control computer systems” this morning.

The number of plane departures over the three-day holiday weekend was expected to be 10% higher than the same period a year earlier, according to Cirium, and 83% higher than in 2021, when the pandemic of Covid-19 has dramatically reduced air travel. .

The disruption is expected to have little effect on the overall operations of US airlines, which had collectively scheduled just over 140 flights to or from Britain on Monday.

Alex Macheras, an aviation analyst, said the delay in flights would cause flight disruptions for several days.

“It’s probably the worst time ever, considering we’re at the end of August, which is usually one of the busiest weeks of the calendar year,” he said.

Mr Macheras said that compared to last summer, when there were many cancellations and delays, air travel to Britain and Europe this summer had gone “smooth” until Monday.

European flights were interrupted for hours in December 2014 due to a technical problem at the NATS air traffic control center in Swanwick, England.

Niraj Chokshi contributed reporting.

nytimes Eur

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