Travel disruption continues in the UK Saturday as a technical fault at an air-traffic control station, caused travel heartache at the airport. Days ago it was severe weather and a tidal surge causing travel problems, now it is technical problems.
Air-traffic control headquarters at Swanwick in Hampshire are at the heart of the mayhem.
The worst flights affected are in London, with as many as 60 flights in and out of Heathrow Airport delayed.
Safety is always an airport’s primary concern so news that air traffic control has gone haywire is an obvious worry. In London cancellations to Geneva, Istanbul, Nice and at least seven other airports are ruffling feathers and fraying the tempers of staff and passengers.
So what has gone wrong?
Each day operations at air-traffic control are switched over from night to day and this is when Saturday’s technical problems began. National Air Traffic Services (NATS) confirmed that the switch-over happens at 6 a.m. which was when their massive headache kicked in Saturday. They have, however, assured the public that at no time has passenger safety been compromised.
With long delays anticipated passengers are advised to check for the latest travel information before starting their journey and to pack essential items such as medication in hand luggage. Remember restrictions on carrying liquids in hand luggage will still be in place. Check the government website for the latest advice on what you can pack in your hand luggage and how it must be packed.
Officials are predicting that technical issues will not be resolved until 2 p.m. GMT. In the meantime air traffic is backing up at airports, especially those in the London area.
The latest advice is check with your travel company for advice. Ryanair expects delays of a couple of hours at Stanstead airport but has said that flight cancellations later today are a possibility.
Manchester airport, in the north west of England is operating as normal with flights unaffected. However further north Newcastle in England plus Scottish airports in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen are affected and experiencing delays.
Bournemouth in the south of England has not escaped unscathed and neither has Cardiff airport in Wales, so expect delays if you are departing from these airports.
London airports by and large have been affected. The Independent reports “Departures from Stansted in general are subject to delays of between 30 minutes and two hours. A spokeswoman for Gatwick Airport said the problems have resulted in 20 per cent of flights being delayed by up to “a couple of hours”, but reassured passengers the staff are “getting people moving”. Luton Airport and London City Airport are seeing the same issues as the other London airports”.
Currently, though, there are no issues with incoming flights at Gatwick airport. That could of course change, especially if the technical issues are not resolved early Saturday.
Thousands of passengers could ultimately experience long delays or flight cancellations in the UK Saturday. Will those delays carry forward into Sunday? It is difficult to imagine today’s issues will not have an impact.
If you are embarking on a long haul flight from the UK Saturday, to countries such as China, India and the USA, you could find yourself diverted to a continental airport.
The fact that you may have been warned is helpful but may not prevent tempers fraying and blood pressure rising. The UK airport is trying to control chaos as air traffic control experiences technical glitches. Be prepared for any delays in travel.
By Eileen Kersey