Ryanair calls on CAA to act over air traffic chaos caused by telephone system glitch

British Airways cancelled about 150 domestic and European flights in an effort to protect its long-haul schedule

Ryanair appealed to the UK's aviation regulator to intervene after a telephone system glitch caused air chaos across the country. The hundreds of delayed flights could cost airlines millions of pounds.

The budget airline called the performance of National Air Traffic Services (Nats) "simply not good enough", with further delays to thousands of journeys predicted today, despite Nats saying it had fixed the problem this evening.

The problem arose in the early hours of Saturday morning at the Nats control room in Swanwick, Hampshire. A routine switchover from night to daytime operations failed. Many of the incoming controllers were unable to work normally because the internal phone system was not working properly.

In a statement Ryanair said it was calling on the Civil Aviation Authority to intervene and "prevent further chaos for thousands of passengers affected by this air traffic control failure. While we acknowledge problems can occur, where is the contingency? It's simply not good enough and the CAA needs to act now."

Nats acknowledged that the system's capacity had been reduced, but said problems had been resolved by this evening. "It was not possible to open the additional control positions this morning, resulting in a significant reduction in capacity in some areas of UK en-route airspace," a spokesperson said. By noon on a typical Saturday, about 2,000 flights would have been handled, but the glitch reduced that number by 300 flights, Nats added.

Ryanair apologised to its customers for the situation, which was "out of its control", but one customer who was not happy with its service was John Gallagher, 26, a PhD student from Cambridge, who was flying from Stansted to Rome. "I'm annoyed. Ryanair's communication has been dire. I know they can't fix an air traffic control problem, but there have been no announcements and we learnt about the problems from a TV in a pub in the airport," he said.

Another traveller, Emily Smith, 25, a healthcare assistant from Somerset, was flying to Lapland from Bristol with 13 family members. "My sister-in-law has had cancer this year, and we thought this was going to be her last Christmas, so we all got together," she said. "It's just completely ruined our Christmas. None of us will be able to get time off work."

London is the leading global aviation hub, handling far more passengers each day than any other city in the world. With the "flow rate" reduced, British Airways cancelled about 150 domestic and European flights in an effort to protect its long-haul schedule. Intercontinental flights were departing with delays of 30 to 60 minutes. BA said: "Given that Heathrow is the world's busiest two-runway airport and Gatwick is the world's busiest single-runway airport, there will be problems for all airlines as a result of the air traffic control failures."

Gatwick had at least 80 flights delayed and a number of cancellations. Stansted had delays and four cancellations, and Birmingham had 60 flights delayed. Manchester, Cardiff, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Belfast were also affected by delays.

A Nats spokesman said that the issue was "not simply internal telephones," adding: "This is a very complex and sophisticated system with more than a million lines of software."

British Airways' cancellations, which affected an estimated 18,000 passengers, could result in costs of more than £3m.

Eurocontrol, the European organisation for air navigation safety, said: "This incident highlights once again the importance of the robustness of the technical systems supporting air traffic management."

News
Patrick Stewart in the classiest ice bucket to date
people
News
Australian rapper Iggy Azalea was left red faced but, thankfully, unhurt after taking a few too many steps backwards, sending her tumbling off the stage.
peopleIggy Azalea was left red faced but apparently unhurt after taking a few too many steps backwards
News
newsComedian Lee Hurst started trend with first tweet using the hashtag
News
The current recommendation from Britain's Chief Medical Officer, is that people refrain from drinking on at least two days a week
food + drinkTheory is that hangovers are caused by methanol poisoning
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
A nearly completed RoboThespian robot inside the Engineered Arts workshop is tested in Penryn, England. The Cornish company, operating from an industrial unit near Falmouth, is the world's only maker of commercially available life sized humanoid robots
techSuper-intelligent robots could decide destroying the human race is the kindest thing to do
News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
News
newsRyan Crighton goes in search of the capo dei capi
Life and Style
techConcept would see planes coated in layer of micro-sensors and able to sense wear and tear
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Extras
indybest

Arts and Entertainment
Actors front row from left, Jared Leto, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Ellen DeGeneres, Bradley Cooper, Peter Nyongío Jr., and, second row, from left, Channing Tatum, Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, Lupita Nyongío and Angelina Jolie as they pose for a
film
Sport
sport
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Software Developer (Java /C# Programmer)- London

£30000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A global investment management fi...

Senior Network Engineer-(CCIE, CCNP, Cisco, London)

£65000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-(CCIE, CC...

Senior Network Analyst - (CCIE, Cisco, CISSP)

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Analyst - (CCIE, C...

Senior Network Engineer-(Design, Implementation, CCIE)

£60000 - £80000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-(Design, ...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition