As it happenedended1693543615

Air traffic control – latest: Airlines demand compensation reform as NATS outage sees 2,000 flights cancelled

There were 1,585 flights cancelled on Monday, while 345 were axed on Tuesday

Simon Calder,Maanya Sachdeva,Shweta Sharma
Friday 01 September 2023 05:46 BST

Simon Calder on air traffic control chaos - how to get refunds, compensation

Airlines have demanded compensation reform as air traffic control chaos has seen 2,000 flights cancelled across Europe.

More than 2,000 flights have been cancelled in the last three days, following an hours-long air control system failure that sent flight schedules into meltdown and left thousands of travellers stranded.

Industry body Iata projected a £100m loss in revenue for airlines as customers reclaim the costs for food, accommodation and alternative travel, urging the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to review the compensation system and make the National Air Traffic Services (Nats) contribute to the cost.

“It’s very unfair because the air traffic control system, which was at the heart of this failure, doesn’t pay a single penny”, Willie Walsh, the director general of Iata, told the BBC.

He added that the UK should “look at the way passenger compensation is dealt with to ensure that the people who are responsible for the delays and cancellations ultimately bear the costs.”

The UK’s air traffic control boss, Martin Rolfe, said the glitch – caused by “dodgy” flight data – has been fixed and will not occur in the future.

Have you been affected by delays? If so email


AMA with Simon Calder: Holiday interrupted

“We were informed that our Jet2 flight out to Gran Canaria and subsequent holiday were cancelled not because of the NATS issue, but because the knock on delay meant although the fresh crew could fly their first sector (and us) out, they would be out of hours to complete the return and this be stuck away from Bristol.

“As the company has apparently decided not to fly our flight, can compensation be claimed for this as it was a Jet2 scheduling decision not as a direct cause of the NATS problem?”

SC: An interesting question, but I am afraid that the airline can mount the reasonable explanation as follows: that the extreme disarray caused by Monday’s air-traffic control collapse, and in the process of trying to recover the schedule it is not feasible to night stop the crew and aircraft in Gran Canaria.

Maanya Sachdeva30 August 2023 09:41

AMA with Simon Calder: Stress and expense

“Hello Simon!

“Can we claim compensation under EU regulations or is this situation exempt because it is considered an ‘extraordinary’?

“Our flight from Amsterdam was cancelled at very short notice on Monday night. Next earliest EasyJet flight available is Thursday evening. Has caused us stress and expense.

“I will claim for accommodation and food costs from EasyJet and hope they pay up without any quibbling.

“Can we also claim compensation under EU rules?

SC: Sorry to hear about your situation and stress. Sadly, European air passengers’ rights rules on compensation (which would be £220 for a short hop from Amsterdam to the UK) do not apply when the airline is not responsible.

But I am concerned to read: “Earliest easyJet flight available is Thursday evening.” That is entirely irrelevant. Plenty of other planes as well as ferries and trains are going from Amsterdam to the UK, and easyJet must cover the cost of getting you home as soon as possible.

Whatever the cause of a cancellation, and regardless of the amount of notice that is given, you can insist upon replacement transport: the airline must get you to your destination as soon as possible if that is what you want.

If you are flown to a different arrival airport, the airline must also meet reasonable onward travel costs.

Find out more here:

Caught in the air traffic control nightmare? Your rights when flights go wrong

Even though airlines are not to blame for the outage, the companies are obliged to care for passengers

Maanya Sachdeva30 August 2023 09:44

AMA with Simon Calder: Compensation claims

“We had our flights with Ryanair from France to Manchester cancelled on Monday.

“Rebooked new flights with them as soon as we heard but weren’t any available until Saturday.

“Will we be entitled to compensation for the additional 5 days accommodation, car parking charges at Manchester airport or loss of earnings at work?”

SC: Will we be entitled to compensation for the additional 5 days accommodation? Yes, as well as meals, but keep the receipts and make sure they are itemised.

Car parking charges at Manchester airport? Possibly, but some car parking firms are letting people off if their flights are delayed.

Loss of earnings at work? No.

Maanya Sachdeva30 August 2023 09:53

One per cent of all flights at UK airports cancelled on third day of disruptions

Aviation analytics company Cirium said 64 flights due to serve UK airports on Wednesday were cancelled as of 9am.

This is equivalent to around one per cent of all flights.

Heathrow has the most cancellations, followed by Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

Cirium said 1,585 flights were cancelled on Monday when the air traffic control failure happened, and 345 were axed on Tuesday.

Maanya Sachdeva30 August 2023 10:24

UK air traffic control meltdown fault won’t happen again, Nats chief says

The air traffic control glitch which caused thousands of flight cancellations and delays into and out of Britain has been fixed and will not be repeated, the head of Nats, the country’s air traffic control provider, said on Wednesday.

Thousands of Britons remain stranded abroad after 2,000 flights were cancelled on Monday and disruption to schedules persisted into Tuesday. The peak holiday period means those affected are not being offered alternative flights for days.

Martin Rolfe, the CEO of Nats said the technical problem was caused by a flight plan which was “not sufficiently standard”. He said the issue had been fixed.

“We’ve worked incredibly hard since we restored the service back on Monday to make sure that this type of event can’t happen again,” he told the BBC.

Ryanair criticised Nats on Tuesday for not having a back-up system. With crews and planes in the wrong places, airlines are now scrambling to get passengers home, a process with which Nats is involved.

EasyJet said it was adding five extra flights from holiday hotspots in Portugal and Spain later this week to fly people home.

Maanya Sachdeva30 August 2023 10:52

Faulty data hitting air traffic control ‘demonstrates huge weakness’, ex-BA boss says

It is “staggering” that the UK’s air traffic control system was caused to “collapse” by a piece of incorrect data, according to former British Airways boss Willie Walsh.

National Air Traffic Services (Nats) chief executive Martin Rolfe said the widespread disruption which started on Monday “relates to some of the flight data we received”.

Mr Walsh, director-general of global airline body the International Air Transport Association (Iata), told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I find it staggering, I really do.

“This system should be designed to reject data that’s incorrect, not to collapse the system.

“If that is true, it demonstrates a considerable weakness that must have been there for some time and I’m amazed if that is the cause of this.

“Clearly we’ll wait for the full evaluation of the problem but that explanation doesn’t stand up from what I know of the system.”

International Airlines Group chief executive Willie Walsh (Niall Carson/PA)

Maanya Sachdeva30 August 2023 12:00

ICYMI: EasyJet to send ‘rescue flights’ for passengers stranded by air traffic control chaos

Britain’s largest budget airline will send “rescue flights” for passengers stranded abroad by air traffic control chaos.

The rescue flights will operate from Palma and Faro on 30 August, Tenerife and Enfidha on 31 August and Rhodes on 1 September.

Find out more here:

EasyJet to send ‘rescue flights’ for passengers stranded by air traffic control chaos

EasyJet will put on repartriation flights from Palma, Faro, Tenerife, Enfidha and Rhodes in the coming days

Maanya Sachdeva30 August 2023 12:37

Stranded passengers ‘sleeping on floors’ at airports as they wait for flights home

Many affected travellers are being told to wait several days for flights home.

Some have been forced to sleep on floors or makeshift beds at airports, or take long routes by land after their flights were cancelled.

Airlines were criticised for failing to book hotel rooms for many people who were delayed overnight.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said on Tuesday night: “Airlines are clear about their responsibilities to their customers and I stand ready to provide further appropriate support from the Government should the industry request it.

“Although the air traffic control system is back up and running, the knock-on effects of (Monday’s) disruption are likely to continue over the coming days.”

Rory Boland, editor of consumer magazine Which? Travel, said: “We’re seeing worrying reports of passengers being left stranded without support, and airlines failing to properly communicate with their passengers or fulfil their legal obligations such as offering timely rerouting or providing overnight accommodation.

Maanya Sachdeva30 August 2023 13:00

British family stuck in south of France until Sunday after flights cancelled

A British family are stuck in France until Sunday and must fly back from an airport hours away from where they were staying after the air traffic control failure.

Rory Dollard, 40, a cricket journalist at PA Media, said he and his wife Joanne, 40, and children Emily, 10, and Arthur, eight, of Skipton, North Yorkshire, were left waiting for five hours at Bergerac Dordogne Perigord Airport on Monday after their Ryanair flight could not take off.

After being sent to spend the night at a hotel in an industrial estate, they returned to the airport to find out about flights, but there were no staff around.

Mr Dollard said: “We hired a car at the airport and travelled to visit some friends and that’s how we’re spending the next few days.

“Six days, it’s remarkable really, I’ve been to the airport again today and the flights had restarted for Ryanair, but they were all full already so it wasn’t a case that we could book on to the next flight.

“We’re having to wait for the next available route, which is a couple of hours’ drive away at a different airport, Limoges, on Sunday afternoon.

“It feels like there’s been a lack of information for passengers, really, I understand that there’s a lot of people affected across the continent, it feels like the weight of people affected has overloaded the system.

“We were told we would hear from somebody the following morning and we still haven’t heard from anyone and frankly we’re not expecting at this stage to hear from anyone at all, I guess we’ll be dealing with it once we get back to England.”

Queues at Bergerac Dordogne Perigord Airport, where journalist Rory Dollard at his family are suffering delays

Rory Dollard's wife Joanne and their children Emily, 10, and Arthur, eight at Bergerac Dordogne Perigord Airport

Eleanor Noyce30 August 2023 13:20

Couple estimates ‘about £2,200’ loss due to flight disruption

A “gutted” sales executive said he estimates he and his wife are “about £2,200 out of pocket” due to an air traffic control glitch which resulted in their flight from Crete being cancelled.

Tom Perry, 31, who is based in Cornwall, said that he and his wife discovered their easyJet flight for Monday night from Heraklion airport to Luton had been cancelled about an hour before they planned to leave for the airport.

The couple ultimately booked flights home for Friday for £1,172 and are “gutted” to have to pay for new flights with a different airline without getting a refund for their original booking, Mr Perry said.

Mr Perry said they have had to pay “around £300” towards extending their stay at a villa in Sissi, Crete, as well as paying for a parking space for additional days at Luton airport and their dog to stay at a kennel.

Mr Perry’s wife, Ella, 27, is an NHS nurse who could “lose pay or annual leave”, he said.

He had become concerned that his flight might be affected by the air traffic control glitch on the day of his flight.

He said: “Earlier in the day, probably six or seven hours previous, we saw that there were delays so I was keeping an eye on that.”

He said the couple’s flight was initially pushed back until 7am the following day “but as the day went on it got better and better and better and then eventually got to an hour and a half delay from the original time of the flight.”

Then, about an hour before they left for the airport, the easyJet app announced that their flight had been cancelled, Mr Perry said.

He said: “The communication was very, very poor, I would say. We got an email eventually, probably about an hour after the app updated, to say it was cancelled, to say, ‘Yes, it’s cancelled.”’

Mr Perry discovered their easyJet flight for Monday night from Heraklion airport to Luton had been cancelled about an hour before they planned to leave

Eleanor Noyce30 August 2023 13:40

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