Over 60,000 passengers of Ryanair had flights cancelled due to UK air traffic control failure during August bank holiday

The air traffic control failure forced the airline to cancel more than 350 flights leaving British holidaymakers stranded overseas
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A major UK airline has revealed that more than 60,000 of its passengers had flights cancelled when the air traffic control failure hit over the August bank holiday.

Ryanair said in its August traffic update that 63,000 passengers were affected and more than 350 flights were cancelled on 28 and 29 August due to the air traffic control issue.

The failure caused widespread disruption leaving thousands of British holidaymakers stranded overseas and wrecking the travel plans of around a quarter of a million people.

An Irish family of 15 had to pay more than €5,000 to fly home from Poland after Ryanair cancelled their flight, the Irish Independent reported.

The chaos ensued on Monday 28 August during the bank holiday, one of the busiest travel times of the year, as National Air Traffic Services (Nats) were unable to process flight plans automatically.

Over 60,000 passengers of UK airline had flights cancelled over August bank holiday. (Photo: AFP via Getty Images) Over 60,000 passengers of UK airline had flights cancelled over August bank holiday. (Photo: AFP via Getty Images)
Over 60,000 passengers of UK airline had flights cancelled over August bank holiday. (Photo: AFP via Getty Images)

The problem forced airlines to cancel nearly 1,600 flights into and out of the UK and caused further knock-on cancellations and delays across Europe, according to the data company Cirium.

Last week Ryanair’s chief executive Michael O’Leary criticised Nats calling the disruption “unacceptable” and the airline said the ATC failure “has still not been explained”.

EasyJet’s chief executive Johan Lundgren also last week demanded a “full independent review” into the failure and said it “must not happen again”.

He said: “Passengers deserve to see a full independent review, which not only results in meaningful improvements to prevent an incident of this scale happening again but also considers a wide range of issues beyond this incident, including staffing levels required at Nats (National Air Traffic Services) to deliver today’s flying and what modernisation is needed to deliver the flying of tomorrow.”

Nats has said an “unusual piece of data” it received forced it to switch to manual checks.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper met Nats, the Civil Aviation Authority, Border Force, airlines, airports and trade groups on Friday (1 September) to discuss the situation. Nats is carrying out an inquiry into what happened and is expected to send a preliminary report to Harper.

Despite the disruption cancelling flights, Ryanair still reported its biggest ever month as people return to travel in larger numbers following the end of Covid restrictions.

The airline carried 18.9 million passengers during August, up 11% from the equivalent period in 2022.

The airline’s previous monthly record was 18.7 million in July.

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