UK air traffic control failure: Why did it happen, flights update, can you claim for compensation
Here’s everything you need to know about the UK air traffic control systems failure that is set to cause chaos to the aviation industry this week.
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The network failure that grappled UK’s air traffic control on Monday (August 28) continues to cause chaos on Tuesday as stranded Britons overseas scramble to find the next available flights - or even other means - to return home.
Although the system went back up and running in the afternoon after an approximate five-hour outage, airlines are still struggling to clear the backlog, and passengers are warned that their travel disruption could last for days.
A total of 232 flights departing UK airports had been cancelled and 271 arriving flights by Monday afternoon, according to aviation analytics firm Cirium. This equates to about 8% of all expected departures and 9% of expected arrivals, Cirium added.
The figures reportedly equate to about a third of the flying programme on what was due to be one of the busiest travel days of the year. Heathrow saw the highest number of cancellations, followed by Gatwick and Manchester.
A Heathrow spokesperson said: “Schedules continue to be affected by yesterday’s restrictions on UK airspace. While the majority of passengers will still be able to travel, there will unfortunately be some disruption to some routes, including flight cancellations.”
National Air Traffic Services (Nats), the country’s leading provider of air traffic control, said at 3.15pm that it had “identified and remedied” the technical issue affecting its systems and it was working with airlines and airports to support affected flights.
Although the disruptions could last at least until Friday, many are left wondering if the flight cancellations mean they are entitled for compensation. Here’s everything you need to know about what has caused the widespread technical glitch and what you can do as a customer.
What caused the air traffic control failure?
Nats said it had experienced “technical issues” on Monday morning (August 28) which meant flight plans had to be input manually by controllers, forcing some 1,200 flights to be grounded and cancelled, with several more delayed.
Later at around 3pm, Nats said they identified and remedied the technical issue affecting their flight planning system, which automatically processes flight plans. The system went back up and running after several hours.
Transport secretary Mark Harper said the Government does not believe the disruption was caused by a cybersecurity incident, but there will be an independent review. He told GB News: “And what will happen now with an incident of this magnitude is there will be an independent review.
“The Civil Aviation Authority will be putting together a report in the coming days, which obviously I will take a look at to see whether there are lessons to learn for the future, to see whether we can reduce the impact of this again.
“It’s nearly a decade since there was a significant issue like this. We want to make sure it doesn’t happen again, because of all the disruption that’s been caused to passengers across the country.”
Flights update - is your airline affected?
Travel expert Simon Calder told GB news that British Airways and Easyjet have got around 60 cancellations each on Tuesday, which represents another 20,000 or so travellers. Ryanair has cancelled 20 flights so far.
All three airlines have urged the passengers to check the status of their flight on their websites before continuing with their journey.
What are my rights if my flight has been cancelled?
In accordance with UK regulations, individuals impacted by the technical glitch that occurred on Monday are entitled to certain legal protections which compel airlines to offer assistance to passengers travelling from a UK airport, arriving in the UK via a European Union (EU) or UK carrier, or landing at an EU airport on a UK airline.
If your flight falls under the purview of UK legislation, your airline is obligated to present you with the choice of selecting an alternative flight or receiving a full refund. Any unused portion of your ticket can be reimbursed.
Should you still wish to proceed with your travel plans, your airline is required to locate an alternate flight for you. If another airline is operating flights to your destination considerably sooner, or if there are other suitable transportation options accessible, you hold the right to be rebooked on such alternative means of transport.
As outlined by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), in the event of a "significant delay," the airline is mandated to provide passengers with a reasonable provision of food and beverages.
Can passengers be compensated?
The air traffic control issues experienced on Monday might potentially fall within the category of "extraordinary circumstances," which could absolve airlines from compensation obligations.
According to guidance from the CAA, airlines should keep passengers informed about the resumption of their flights and encourage travellers to stay in communication with airport personnel and monitor their airline’s website.
It says: "If you have been delayed for more than five hours and no longer wish to travel then you are entitled to a refund. If you are a transfer passenger and missed your connecting flight because your first flight was delayed, you are also entitled to a flight back to your original departure point."
The authority adds that once a passenger accepts a refund or to travel later than the first available flight, then the airline is not obliged to provide food, drink or accommodation.
It says: "If you are on a package holiday and you decide not to travel on your outbound flight, you may lose your holiday too, we recommend you contact your package organiser or the airline for further information.
"If you still want to travel then your airline must get you to your destination. You might have to be patient while they rearrange transport and rebook passengers, but the law says they must get you there."