UK airspace failure LIVE: Latest updates on flight chaos

UK air traffic control news LIVE: Latest as flights grounded after airspace failure sparks chaos in ‘network-wide’ problem

This is MailOnline’s live blog as the ‘network-wide’ air traffic control system failure causes chaos for travellers that could last for days.

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One passenger – called Laura – said: ‘We’ve been sat on the tarmac at Palma Airport for over two hours already, the plane to Bristol was due to take off at 11:35am and about 12pm we got an update to say there was issues in the UK with air traffic control and we were told our slot wouldn’t be until 11pm this evening then that got reduced until 9pm.

‘We’re still on the plane and awaiting further updates with the latest update about 30 minutes ago saying they are hoping the 9pm delays is now reduced to 4 hours (we’re not sure if that is four hours from now or four hours from our original take off time)!

‘To add to it, Palma airport was already chaos this morning following the storms yesterday and all the cancelled and delayed flights.

‘Queues were snaked around outside the airport and people were sleeping all over the airport terminal. Happy holidays!’

One passenger, Danni – who is travelling back to the UK from Lanzarote – told MailOnline she had been told to expect a delay of at least 10 hours.

This is a photo she took from her window.

NATS – the UK-based air traffic control service – said in a statement: ‘We are currently experiencing a technical issue and have applied traffic flow restrictions to maintain safety. Engineers are working to find and the fix the fault.

‘We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.’ 

In an updated statement at 12.40, they added: ‘We are continuing to work hard to resolve the technical issue.

‘To clarify, UK airspace is not closed, we have had to apply air traffic flow restrictions which ensures we can maintain safety.’


Travel expert Simon Calder said the system outage would cause ‘misery’ for passengers – with contagion likely spreading across Europe. 

He said travellers should ‘assume’ their flight was operating normally and predicted airlines would be forced to pay out millions in compensation.  

Mr Calder told Sky News: ‘There is very little slack in the system. It’s going to be miserable. Meanwhile there and hundreds of planes up in the sky heading to the UK.

‘What’s going to happen to those aircraft, will some of them get down if they are in the vicinity of the airfield. 

‘Otherwise you will see planes held on the ground in places like Amsterdam or otherwise being diverted if they’re on a longer flight. That would typically be to a continental airport or an Irish airport.’ 

He said the shutdown would not cause safety issues because the system was ‘designed to cope’ with a shutdown and aircraft carried contingency fuel. 

But he added: ‘This is of course one of the busiest days of the year. There are hundreds of thousands of people flying into the UK, frankly this is the last thing anyone needs. 

‘It will at the very least have caused enough disruption for the system to be in disarray for certainly until the end of the day and possibly for a few further days ahead.’

The travel guru said air traffic controllers at Heathrow – the UK’s busiest airport – be forced to reduce the frequency at which flights are able to land.  

He explained: ‘Normally you have flights landing typically every 90 seconds or so. They can switch away from the digital system and become much more analogue, bringing the aircraft in more manually. However, you are not going to be able to do it at the same rate. 

‘For Heathrow and Gatwick in particular there is so little slack in the system that it can cause problems. If you’re reducing the flow rate coming in and keeping aircraft on the ground at those airports it will be a very difficult afternoon.’

TV presenter Gabby Logan is among those affected by the shutdown, which has left her stranded on the runway at Budapest Airport. 

She wrote: ‘After almost 3 weeks away from home I am hours from hugging my family. And have just been told UK airspace is shut. We could be here for 12 hours. So we sit on the plane and wait.’ 

In a further Tweet she added: ‘It’s allowing traffic in there’s already airborne but nothing else to take off.’

She continued: ‘Now regretting my decision to miss breakfast.’

The news was leaked out by the Scottish airline Loganair, which shared the news on Twitter. 

It tweeted: ‘There has been a network-wide failure of UK air traffic control computer systems this morning.

‘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 maybe subject to delays.

‘If you are flying with us today, please check our website for the latest information about your flight before setting off for the airport.’  

The UK’s air traffic control system has suffered a ‘huge network failure’ on one of the busiest days of the year – causing chaos for travellers that could last days.  

Britain’s National Air Traffic Services (NATS) said it is experiencing ‘technical issues’ that had forced controllers to reduce the rate flights are able to land and take off. 

This has led to scores of flights being delayed both in and out of the UK for an average of around three hours.  

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