The UK’s air-traffic control systems suffered a “technical fault” on Monday which bled into Tuesday, causing severe delays and flight cancellations.
The ongoing disruption has many Londoners wondering if airports in the capital are even open, and how flights might be affected in the near future.
The National Air Traffic Controllers (NATS) said it had “identified and remedied” the technical issue affecting its flight-planning system.
“Our engineers will be carefully monitoring the system’s performance as we return to normal operations.”
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mark Harper said NATS had apologised for the disruption, saying: “I’d like to add my apology to that.”
Ruling out a cyber attack, Mr Harper said: “First of all, I want to reiterate what NATS said yesterday; they apologised for the disruption. I’d like to add my apology to that, I’ve been in a similar position when flights are cancelled. It’s incredibly disruptive, so I do understand that.
“Airlines have a responsibility either to get people back on a flight to get them home, or to pay for them to be accommodated and to sort out accommodation for them, and for food or drink as well. If they don’t do it, people can pay for reasonable costs themselves and claim back from their airlines,” he added.
“There was a technical issue with the flight-planning system that will be looked at in detail. When there is a significant issue like this… the CAA [Civil Aviation Authority] has to do a report on an incident of this magnitude and report back to me.
“I don’t wish at this point to rush to judgement… they had to go to a manual system they have as a failsafe. Their primary responsibility is to make sure people fly safely, so they had to reduce the capacity of the system.”
“I accept it has disrupted thousands of people. Lots of flights were cancelled yesterday because of the imperative to keep the system working safely and it is going to take some days,” he added.
Are London airports closed today?
Many people in the UK have been asking Google whether London airports are closed today — according to Google Trends data — but it is the flights themselves that have been impacted by the latest issues, rather than the airports themselves.
Airports are open in London as usual, though holidaymakers should definitely check with their specific airline to make sure the flight itself is taking off.
What are the problems with air-traffic control?
The technical fault that began on Monday morning impacted the system’s ability to automatically process flight plans, resulting in staff having to manually input them.
It meant that traffic-flow restrictions had to be enforced. NATS made the decision to reduce the number of aircraft that could take off and land at a given time to manage flow.
How many flights have been cancelled?
By Monday afternoon, 232 flights departing from UK airports had been cancelled and 271 arrivals had been revoked, according to the aviation analytics company Cirium.
London Gatwick said it plans to operate a normal schedule on Tuesday following the disruption, but warns passengers to check the status of their flight with their airline before making their way to the airport.
London Stansted said flights should run normally on Tuesday, but added, “our terminal may be busier than anticipated”.
Luton Airport said “flights may be subject to delay or cancellation”.
What can passengers do?
Passengers due to fly in or out of the UK over the next few days are advised to check the status of their flight with the airline they are flying with.
If you’re already at the airport, keep an eye on display screens.