500 flights canceled as UK air traffic control system hit by ‘nightmare scenario’

London – Thousands of travelers faced flight delays and uncertainty on Monday after the UK’s air traffic control system was hit by technical problems that led to the cancellation of at least 500 flights to and from UK airports.

Britain’s National Air Traffic Service (NATS) said in a statement to CBS News that a technical problem on Monday, the end of a long weekend and one of the busiest bank holidays of the year, caused restrictions on air travel in and out of the United Kingdom for travel, amid reports of widespread delays in flights from popular holiday destinations to London.

Hours later, NATS said it had “identified and fixed” the technical issue and was “now working closely with airlines and airports to manage impacted flights as efficiently as possible.” The agency did not say when normal service might resume.

According to BBC News, more than 230 flights from the UK were canceled on Monday, along with at least 271 originally scheduled to arrive in the UK

Passengers queue at Gatwick Airport on May 27, 2023 in Crawley, England, as electronic passport gates across the United Kingdom fail. Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Scottish airline Loganair previously said on social media that there had been a network-wide outage of UK air traffic control computer systems and warned international flights could be affected.

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CBS News producer Emmet Lyons said he was stuck on an airstrip on the Spanish island of Mallorca and the pilot on his return flight to the UK told all passengers they were being held indefinitely due to a serious problem with air traffic control that United Kingdom

Speaking to the BBC, Alistair Rosenschein, an aviation consultant and former British Airways Boeing 747 pilot, said it appeared that the entire air traffic control system across the UK was shut down in the country.

“The disruptions are huge and customers all over the world [will] “If the delay is particularly long, they have to be accommodated in hotels,” he added. “It’s really a nightmare scenario.”

More than 6,000 flights were scheduled to and from the UK on Monday, according to the BBC.

Michele Robson, a former air traffic controller, said technical problems like this usually last “only a few hours”, making Monday’s shutdown “unusual”.

“At this point nobody really knows how long it’s going to be,” she told BBC News.

“This morning there was a flight planning system outage affecting both centers in the UK,” Robson said while waiting for a flight from the small British island of Jersey to London.

“It looks as if there has been what is known as a ‘zero rate’, meaning no aircraft can fly into, or likely to fly out of, the UK. Generally they would try to land things that were already in the UK air.”

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Amanda Walker

Global events enthusiast. Reporting with a critical lens to offer readers a deeper perspective.

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