Gatwick Airport in London announced that it would have to cancel more than 160 flights in the last week of September 2023 due to a severe controller shortage, which was partially the result of COVID-19 infections.
The Gatwick Airport announced in a statement that flights will be restricted to 800 per day, departing and arriving, until October 1. It added that the decision had been made in coordination with NATS, Britain’s air traffic control service.
As NATS deals with issues brought on by sickness and staffing shortages, this daily cap “will prevent last-minute cancellations and delays for passengers,” according to the announcement.
According to the statement, 30% of controllers “are currently unavailable for a variety of medical reasons, including COVID”.
Stewart Wingate, director of London Gatwick, the second-largest airport in London after Heathrow, said, “This has been a difficult decision, but the action we have taken today means our airlines can fly reliable flight programs, giving passengers more assurance they won’t face last-minute cancellations.”
The most recent difficulties come after a meltdown at the end of August that resulted in numerous delays and the cancellation of about 2,000 flights over two days.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) of the United Kingdom (UK) has previously announced a separate investigation into the larger problems related to the system breakdown.
The latest setback comes nearly four weeks after the technical glitch, which almost blinded the European country’s Air Traffic Control’s computer systems and affected airlines. Thousands of air travellers faced delays as the United Kingdom’s air traffic control system broke down.
Scottish airline Loganair also admitted to “a network-wide failure of United Kingdom air traffic control computer systems.”
“Although we are hopeful of being able to operate most intra-Scotland flights on the basis of local coordination and with a minimum of disruption, north-south and international flights may be subject to delays,” it said during the last week of August 2023.
The glitch affected the traffic flow during the end of the holiday weekend and one of the busiest travel days of the year.