It has been a rough few days for air travelers in the United Kingdom after an unspecified “technical issue” caused the UK Air Traffic Control system to collapse. It is estimated that 200,000 passengers remain stranded as flight delays and cancellations continue today.
Air Traffic Control Collapse In UK Has Stranded Hundreds Of Thousands
Britain’s National Air Traffic Services (NATS) experienced a system issue August 28, 2023 that snowballed into a full meltdown. NATS has not publicly identified the root of the issue, but the meltdown forced a substantial flow control program that led to thousands of delays and cancellations, slowing UK air traffic to a crawl.
On Tuesday, British Airways delayed 408 flights (56% of its schedule) while EasyJet delayed 791 flights (42% of its schedule) and Ryanair delayed 1231 flights (44% of its schedule).
Today, British Airways has delayed 201 flights (29% of its schedule) while EasyJet has delayed 648 flights (36% of its schedule).
On top of many cancellations, flight delay rates at London airports have approached 80%.
The Times of London suggests an incorrectly filed flight plan by a French airline initially knocked the system out on Monday morning. It is not clear, however, how one bad flight plan could have crippled the entire system (including the redundant backup systems).
Pictures and videos on social media show thousands of stranded travelers throughout Europe sleeping in airports last night, with many passengers reporting that airlines like British Airways failed to put them in hotel rooms. While flight compensation is not required due to the nature of the delay (government meltdown), airlines are still required to provide hotel rooms and meals to stranded passengers.
In case you haven't seen the scenes at UK airports caused by the air traffic control failures, below shows Heathrow's Terminal 5 on Monday afternoon.
One British Airways passenger, who filmed this footage, told me that at customer service "they weren't answering individual /1 pic.twitter.com/quDAbeeFwE
— William Hallowell (@willhallowell_) August 30, 2023
But this has proved a difficult task, with airlines failing to secure sufficient rooms to accommodate them.
If you are traveling to/from/via the UK, do check your flight status before proceeding to the airport.
While the UK Air Traffic Control system was only down for seven hours, the ripple effects of the collapse may cause flight disruptions for seven days or more. Already, hundreds of flights have been canceled as carriers find their aircraft and crew out of position.
Number 10 has promised to get to the bottom of what happened, but the damage has already been done.