Airlines were forced to cancel lots of of flights and delay lots of more on Monday after Britain’s air traffic control service experienced a “technical issue” that caused widespread disruption on one among the country’s busiest travel days of the yr.
More than 200 flights departing from Britain were canceled, in keeping with Cirium, the aviation analytics company, together with 271 that were scheduled to reach within the country on Monday. Many other flights could be delayed by greater than eight hours, “which is able to inevitably lead to a cancellation,” Cirium added.
NATS, Britain’s National Air Traffic Service, said a technical problem had affected its ability to robotically process flight plans, which meant that the knowledge needed to be entered manually, slowing down the method.
While British airspace was not closed at any time, NATS restricted the variety of flights departing from and landing at airports to be able to maintain safety while its engineers tried to repair the issue. At about 3 p.m. local time, NATS said it had resolved the problem, but noted that air traffic remained disrupted. Britain’s government has a 49 percent stake in NATS, which is a public-private partnership.
The delays hit during a very heavy travel period, as people returned from summer vacations or prolonged weekend trips on Monday’s “bank holiday,” or national time without work, in Britain.
Thousands of holidaymakers spent hours stuck in departure lounges or on runway tarmac, facing long delays and unsure departure times.
In Palma de Mallorca, Jon Hughes, 49, boarded a plane sure for the English city of Leeds at about 1 p.m. local time along with his two children, ages 13 and 15. Once seated, he said, they were told that the plane had been allotted a departure slot in about seven hours.
“It’s highly regarded and children are getting restless,” he said in a message. “We don’t understand how long we might be stuck on the plane. Or even when we’ll get home today.”
Two hours after NATS said it had resolved the technical issue, Mark Harper, the federal government minister chargeable for transport policy, said flights were still affected, and advised travelers to “bear in mind” of their rights when flights were delayed or canceled.
Heathrow Airport, near London, advised passengers to contact their airline before heading there, and Edinburgh Airport told passengers not to depart home before checking the status of their flight.
Jamie Steele, 39, a British nurse returning to Manchester from a vacation within the Italian city of Pisa, had been set to depart at 10.30 a.m. local time. Four hours later, he was still sitting within the plane on the tarmac. The pilot told passengers that the plane would have a departure slot in the subsequent three hours, but added that he was “unsure he trusts the time given.”
“It’s difficult not knowing the time we’ll get home,” Mr. Steele said in a message.
Louise Haigh, the lawmaker in control of transportation policy for the opposition Labour Party, described the disruption as “extremely concerning for passengers” on “one among the busiest days of the yr.”
The variety of flight departures in the course of the three-day holiday weekend had been scheduled to be 10 percent higher than the identical period the yr before, in keeping with Cirium, and 83 percent higher than in 2021, when the Covid-19 pandemic drastically reduced air travel.
Alex Macheras, an aviation analyst, said the backlog of flights would cause flight disruptions for several days.
“That’s probably the worst timing ever given it’s the tip of August, which is usually one among the busiest weeks of the calendar yr,” he said.
Mr. Macheras said that compared with last summer, when there have been quite a few cancellations and delays, this summer’s air travel in Britain and continental Europe had been “smooth sailing” until Monday.
The disruption is predicted to have little effect on overall operations for U.S. airlines, which collectively had just over 140 planned flights to or from Britain on Monday.
European flights were disrupted for hours in December 2014 due to a technical problem at NATS’s air traffic control center in Swanwick, England.
Niraj Chokshi contributed reporting.