Air traffic control chaos hits Gatwick for FOURTH time in a month… and this time they’ve blamed Covid: More than sixty flights are cancelled and 8,000 passengers face delays as bosses say staff sickness in control tower reduced runway ‘flow rate’
Flight cancellations due to Covid-19 have returned after an outbreak of the virus among air traffic control staff was blamed for chaos at London Gatwick Airport.
Some 8,000 passengers were said to have been left out of position after a total of 64 flights arriving or leaving the West Sussex hub were cancelled today and yesterday.
Data from the FlightRadar24 tracking website revealed Gatwick had 31 arrivals and 27 departures cancelled yesterday. There were also six arrivals cancelled today.
EasyJet made up dozens of the flights affected after a drop in the ‘flow rate’ of planes using the Gatwick runway, with some services delayed by up to seven hours.
The airline said it was ‘extremely disappointed’ by the issues which saw eight flights cancelled to and from Belfast, and others to or from Edinburgh, Geneva and Paris.
National Air Traffic Services (Nats) based in Fareham, Hampshire, said the disruption was due to ‘short-notice staff sickness including some incidences of Covid’.
This is the third time in a month that Gatwick passengers have faced chaos due to air traffic control staff sickness, following incidents on September 14 and September 6.
That was on top of the Nats technical glitch on August 28 that caused widespread disruption at airports across the UK, leaving thousands of holidaymakers stranded.
Passengers wait for information at London Gatwick Airport yesterday amid major disruption
Passengers for an Air India flight at Gatwick last night were allegedly waiting on the floor
Among those left furious by issues over the weekend was consultant psychiatrist Daniel Wilkes, from Angus, whose flight from Gatwick to Edinburgh last night was cancelled after the scheduled departure time.
He told The Independent: ‘I just can’t believe the lack of contingency planning from Nats for staff sickness and that this is happening again.
‘Plus, airports and airlines have had quite a while to firm up their processes for cancellations, and yet always the poorly managed scrum ensues. Bizarrely, we were made to exit through border control. I didn’t even have my passport as it was a domestic flight.’
Dr Wilkes rebooked an easyJet flight this morning from London Stansted to Edinburgh, after travelling there in an Uber for £100 and spending £159 on a hotel at the Essex airport – which he hopes the airline will pay.
Others took to social media to complain of disruption, with one writing on X: ‘Hello @easyJet my flight back to London Gatwick from Amsterdam was cancelled and I am currently stranded in the airport and cannot get through to your customer services. Please can you help me.’
Another posted: ‘AI172 should have departed at 20:00 – whilst I can see the gate number online, my mum at the airport has been asked to wait by the screen in a very packed terminal, airport are blaming the airline but can’t be the case as ALL flights are delayed. Answers please?’.
And a third wrote: ‘@easyJet you have cancelled the 4pm Gatwick to Schiphol and didn’t complete confirmation for my rescheduled flight, booked through your shoddy app that crash’s. Now all flights full today. Your staff were useless in the airport refusing to help and I have to get home today.’
A fourth added: ‘@easyJet very unhappy this weekend. After a delay inc 25 mins on tarmac after landing at Gatwick on Friday, rtn flight today cancelled and only alternative landed 2+ hrs later. Which is now running 1+ hr late, including standing in an outdoor holding area for 30+ mins.’
Vueling cancelled six flights to and from Barcelona, Bilbao and Paris.
One passenger wrote on X: ‘Vueling flight from Paris to Gatwick cancelled this evening. Next flight Tuesday. Going to miss connection to Dublin.’
An easyJet spokesperson said: ‘We are extremely disappointed that customers are once again being impacted by this and while this is outside of our control, we are sorry for the inconvenience caused to our customers.
‘We are doing all possible to minimise the impact of the disruption and have notified those on cancelled flights of their options to rebook or receive a refund and are providing hotel accommodation and meals where required.’
A Gatwick spokesperson said: ‘Due to short notice sickness in the air-traffic control tower including cases of Covid-19, temporary air traffic control restrictions were put in place yesterday. This caused some delays and cancellations by airlines.
‘We worked hard to minimise disruption and we apologise for any inconvenience. The air-traffic control tower is fully staffed this morning.’
And a Nats spokeswoman told MailOnline: ‘We very much regret that some passengers experienced delays at Gatwick yesterday (Sunday, September 24).
‘This was due to short notice staff sickness including some incidences of Covid. We did all we could to minimise disruption, working closely with the airport and airlines.
‘We have worked very hard to increase the number of controllers, but it will take some time to build full resilience. It does mean, though, that short notice absences may lead to air traffic control regulations being applied in order to maintain safety, and we are all very sorry for the impact this has.’
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