Gatwick Airport: Nats' ‘sincere’ apology over UK airports flight chaos doesn't cut it

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Continuously seeing people’s flights cancelled is awful, especially over a miniscule problem such as a “staff absence”

Once again there is chaos at Gatwick Airport and once again it’s a failure from the National Air Traffic Services (Nats).

Last night (Thursday 14 September) thousands of airline passengers saw their flights cancelled, delayed or diverted at Gatwick Airport

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Flights were diverted away to a range of other airports including Bournemouth, Cardiff, Heathrow, Luton and Stansted - with passengers left furious by waiting in huge queues.

Nats confirmed the airport chaos was due to a “short notice staff absence” - but why did this cause huge amounts of delays and chaos? And surely Nats should make sure it has the right number of staff to see no disruption to flights happening?

Nats said new air traffic controllers “have been recruited since last summer increasing our presence by 17%” and “others are due to start after completing their training”, adding that airlines operating at London Gatwick were “aware of the situation when NATS was appointed”.

It offered a “sincere” apology to “everyone who has been inconvenienced”.

But a “sincere” apology is not going to cut it. 

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A ‘sincere’ apology from Nats won’t cut it. (Photo: NationalWorld/Kim Mogg/Adobe Stock/Getty Images)A ‘sincere’ apology from Nats won’t cut it. (Photo: NationalWorld/Kim Mogg/Adobe Stock/Getty Images)
A ‘sincere’ apology from Nats won’t cut it. (Photo: NationalWorld/Kim Mogg/Adobe Stock/Getty Images) | NationalWorld/Kim Mogg/Adobe Stock/Getty Images

How many more times are passengers going to be let down? I for one have certainly been put off going on holiday due to the chaos going on at UK airports.

Even this morning, Malcolm Murray was telling me about the huge queues he faced at Gatwick Airport after he landed - whilst flights were being cancelled and delayed due to the staff absence.

He said the queues were “in excess of 1000 people” and everyone was “exhausted” and “frustrated”, adding that there was “no staff available” either.

By the time he got to border control he also found that all of the electronic gates were closed.

It sounds like a nightmare.

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Flight delays, cancellations, huge queues all caused by Nats’ lack of urgency and care to make sure it has enough staff to make sure there is no flight disruption.

After the fiasco that occurred just a few weeks back, it should have learned that it must do everything in its power to make sure passengers’ flights are not disrupted.

Paying passengers are suffering the brunt of Nats’ mismanagement - and every few weeks they shouldn’t face chaos or the dread of whether the holiday they had planned and looked forward to is even going to go ahead. 

As you may remember, over the August bank holiday more than 2,000 flights were cancelled, hundreds of thousands of passengers were delayed or stranded, and airlines faced millions of pounds in compensation payments.

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It was all due to a “technical failure” at Nats. Many people excited to go on holiday instead faced sleeping overnight at an airport and losing out on their money and time away.

Now, yet again, there is more disruption due to a failure from Nats and all it offers is a “sincere” apology. 

I’m not a passenger who has been affected by the chaos over the past few weeks but it’s certainly making me think twice about using air travel for holidays.

Continuously seeing people’s flights cancelled is awful - especially over a miniscule problem such as a “staff absence”.

It’s ridiculous, and Nats needs to get a grip.

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