Ongoing delays and flight cancellations continue to mar operations at Gatwick Airport as a result of a scarcity of air traffic controllers. On Thursday, the airport announced an abrupt halt, rerouting or delay of several flights, including an assertion of 22 cancellations as of 22:00 BST.
Flight tracking platform, FlightRadar24, reported a substantial latency involving hundreds of flights transiting through the airport. The National Air Traffic Services (Nats), the organisation in the eye of the storm for its staffing deficits, has extended an apology for the inconvenience caused.
Despite the disruptions, Gatwick Airport operators are optimistic about resuming normal services by Friday.
The situation sparked discontent amongst prominent airline operators including EasyJet and Ryanair. Ryanair’s chief executive, Michael O’Leary, vociferously demanded the resignation of Nats’ chief executive over the matter, whilst expressing his frustration over the delays. He said, “The inadequacy of UK ATC staffing under the stewardship of Martin Rolfe, CEO of Nats is unacceptable. Airlines contribute millions to Nats each year and to witness passengers facing avoidable delays owing to staff shortages is indeed disheartening.”
The disruption significantly impacted passengers such as Laura Neary, a 29-year-old whose flight to Dublin was rerouted to London Stansted, causing her to further travel by coach. Similarly, Paul Treloar and Mike Reed shared their flight diversion and delay experiences on social media.
Julia Lo Blue-Said, CEO of Advantage Travel Partnership, labelled the situation as unacceptable and indicated its severe financial repercussions to the sector while disrupting travellers’ plans.
In its defence, Gatwick Airport issued a statement praising the highly regarded services of Nats. They expressed appreciation for the strenuous effort of their air traffic controllers in maintaining smooth operations and assured maximum effort towards creating resilience in the control tower to minimise disruptions.
Nats once again apologised for the inconvenience, stating, “Airlines at London Gatwick were informed about the staff shortage situation during our appointment. However, we sincerely apologise to them and their passengers for the recent disruptions.”