Flights diverted from Gatwick due to lack of staff in air traffic control

Flights have been diverted from Gatwick Airport  (PA Archive)
Flights have been diverted from Gatwick Airport (PA Archive)

Flights are being diverted from Gatwick Airport because of a lack of staff in air traffic control, the airport has said.

Replying to queries over the delays on social media, the airport said that “temporary air traffic control measures” were in place due to “short notice absence” in the air traffic control tower.

Passengers on social media said their flights had been rerouted to other UK airports including Bournemouth, London Stansted and Heathrow.

The staff work for the NATS, formerly known as the National Air Traffic Services, who provide en route traffic control services to flights.

Gatwick said 22 flights have been cancelled.

A written statement from the airport said: “Due to a short notice staff absence in the Air Traffic Control tower, temporary air traffic control restrictions have been put in place this evening. This will cause some delays.

“London Gatwick would like to apologise to any passengers who have been impacted by these restrictions. Please contact your airline for more information.

“NATS are a world-class provider of air traffic services and London Gatwick’s senior management recognises how hard the airport’s air traffic controllers are working to keep the operation moving. We are working closely with NATS to build resilience in the airport’s control tower to ensure disruption is kept to a minimum.”

Europe’s aviation agency, Eurocontrol, warned pilots to brace for “heavy delays all evening”.

In a statement, NATS said: “We are working closely with the airport to ensure we can handle flights with as little disruption as possible and we apologise very sincerely to people who have been inconvenienced.

It added: “London Gatwick’s senior management understands that we are working hard to keep the operation moving.

“Airlines operating at London Gatwick were aware of the situation when NATS was appointed but that does not dilute the apology we offer sincerely to them and their passengers who have been inconvenienced by recent disruption.”

It comes just two weeks after thousands of flights across UK airports were cancelled due to a technical issue at NATS.

More than a quarter of flights to and from UK airports were cancelled that day, affecting around 250,000 people.

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary told the BBC: “It is unacceptable that more flights and hundreds of passengers are suffering delays to/from Gatwick Airport due to Nats CEO Martin Rolfe’s blatant failure to adequately staff UK ATC.

“Airlines are paying millions of pounds to Nats each and every year and should not have to see their passengers suffer avoidable delays due to UK ATC staff shortages.”