Birmingham Airport ‘temporarily suspends services’ after air traffic control fault

More misery for passengers at Christmas as electronic flight plan system crashes

Sunday 23 December 2018 20:00
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Birmingham Airport deals with an estimated 13 million passengers a year
Birmingham Airport deals with an estimated 13 million passengers a year

Birmingham Airport was forced to temporarily close due to an air traffic control fault – heaping further misery onto travellers at Christmas.

Passengers were advised to check with their airlines after all flights were suspended from around 6pm until just after 8pm.

Eurocontrol, the organisation responsible for air traffic management, issued a bulletin saying “all traffic unavailable due to electronic flight plan system failure”.

The airport said in a statement on its website that it “has had to temporarily suspend services due to an air traffic control fault”.

“We are working to resolve the issue as soon as possible,” it added. “Passengers are advised to check with their airline regarding flight departures and arrivals. We apologise for the inconvenience this is causing to our passengers.”

Dozens of arrivals were either delayed or diverted, while several services from Belfast, Edinburgh and Glasgow were cancelled altogether.

Several departures were also cancelled, including flights to Germany and Switzerland.

One passenger said on social media: “We are stuck in a Flybe flight to Milan. Lots of people very tired. Children screaming. This situation is awful.”

Passenger Jonathan Black comforted himself that he had some churros to distract him from “being stuck in Birmingham Airport” after being told all flights were grounded.

One woman taking refuge in a bar at the airport used social media to appeal for craft beer and hot chocolate.

The situation appeared to ease shortly before 8pm but the airport was still reporting problems with the flight plan system and “moderate to high delays” to arrivals.

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A Ryanair flight to Malaga, which was scheduled to take off at 5.50pm, eventually took to the runway at around 8.10pm.

"Following the earlier Air Traffic Control technical fault, Birmingham Airport has now resolved the issue and operations have now resumed," a spokesperson said. "We thank passengers for their patience and apologise for any inconvenience this has caused."

Birmingham is the UK’s seventh busiest airport and deals with an estimated 13 million passengers a year.

The air traffic control fault led to increased speculation about attacks on British airports, coming days after around 1,000 flights to and from Gatwick Airport were affected by reports of drone sightings.

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