Gatwick Airport has ordered airlines to cancel dozens of flights as air-traffic controllers fell sick, with only 70% of staff currently running operations. Cancellations, diversions and delays have happened frequently this month due to staff shortage at NATS, UK’s National Air Traffic Service, which runs the control tower at Gatwick.
“We have trained as many air traffic controllers as possible this year in the Gatwick tower and have safely managed over 180,000 flights so far. However, with 30% of tower staff unavailable for a variety of medical reasons including Covid, we cannot manage the number of flights that were originally planned for this week,” reads NATS’ statement.
Approximately 82 departures will be cancelled in the coming week but ongoing discussions will determine which flights to cancel, with affected airlines proportionally based on their usage of the airport.
EasyJet, as the largest operator at Gatwick, will be the most affected, along with British Airways and Ryanair. The airport said it will temporarily cap flights at 800 per day to manage the situation and provide more certainty to passengers. Assuming an average load of 150 passengers per affected flight, around 25,000 passengers will shortly find out their flights have been cancelled, according to The Independent.
The expected movements on Tuesday and Saturday, 26 and 30 September, are 800 movements – so no cancellations are anticipated.
On other days the excess is as follows:
- Wednesday 27 September: 29
- Thursday 28 September: 40
- Friday 29 September: 65
- Sunday 1 October: 30
The total is 164 movements, which corresponds to 82 round-trips from Gatwick.
“The daily cap will prevent last-minute cancellations and delays for passengers while NATS work through challenges driven by sickness and staffing constraints,” reads a Gatwick Airport statement. The British airport advised passengers to check the status of their flights directly with their airlines.