Finnair boss joins airlines demanding National Air Traffic Services refund carriers after its ‘failure’ caused huge disruption to flights

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The boss of Finnair has joined calls for airines to be compensated by Nats after its meltdown caused huge disruption to flights

The boss of Finnair has joined calls for airlines to be reimbursed by National Air Traffic Services (Nats) after its meltdown caused huge disruption to flights.

Chief executive Topi Manner said it would be “natural” for Nats to compensate carriers for the cost of disruption as it is “pretty clear what the source of the failure was”.

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Finnair was among the airlines affected when around 1,500 flights across UK airports were cancelled and many others were delayed on 28 August.

The disruption, caused by Nats, took place over the August bank holiday - one of the busiest times to travel.

An initial inquiry by Nats found the problem was caused by its system failing to process a flight plan correctly.

Airlines demand they should be reimbursed over Nats’ ‘failure’. (Photo: AFP via Getty Images) Airlines demand they should be reimbursed over Nats’ ‘failure’. (Photo: AFP via Getty Images)
Airlines demand they should be reimbursed over Nats’ ‘failure’. (Photo: AFP via Getty Images) | AFP via Getty Images

The switch from automatic to manual processing meant the average number of plans it could handle dropped from around 400 per hour to as few as 60.

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The combined cost to airlines in providing refunds, re-bookings, hotel rooms and refreshments to affected passengers has been estimated at around £100 million by industry body the International Air Transport Association (Iata).

Asked if carriers should be reimbursed by Nats, Mr Manner said: “Wouldn’t it be natural that they would be liable?

“It’s pretty clear what the source of the failure was.”

Mr Manner added that Nats must have “a laser-like focus on not having these things going forward”.

Ryanair has also previously called on Nats to reimburse airlines, with its boss Michael O’Leary saying it is the “least” it could do.

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Iata director-general Willie Walsh told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme it was “very unfair” that Nats “doesn’t pay a single penny”.

However, in Nats’ preliminary report, it stated that it is not within the company’s “remit to address any wider questions arising from the incident such as cost reimbursement and compensation for the associated disruption.”

Airlines operating in Europe have repeatedly suffered ATC disruption due to staff shortages and strike action.

Mr Manner said: “If you look at the European summer it has been certainly better than it was last year, but I would not characterise it as good yet.

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“Certainly the ATC issues and challenges have been impacting on-time performance in European aviation and then on top of that there have been specific ATC failures like IT failures in the UK.”

He added: “We have been one of the most reliable airlines during the during summer with very, very few cancellations.

“It has not happened by accident, it’s by design. We have been baking in adequate buffers to our production in terms of pilot buffers, spare aircraft and so on, to have had this reliability.”

Aviation regulator the Civil Aviation Authority is to launch an independent review into the technical issue that Nats faced.

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