Airports: Flight Delays Due To Air Traffic Computers

7 December 2013, 11:37 | Updated: 8 December 2013, 07:21

A technical problem with Air Traffic Control at Swanwick in Hampshire has led to long delays at Stansted, Luton and other UK airports.

A Stansted Airport spokesman said all of its departing flights were subject to delays of between 30 minutes and two hours.

National Air Traffic Services (NATS) said the issue stemmed from its control centre in Swanwick, Hampshire.

There have been cancellations at Heathrow Airport for flights scheduled to leave this morning.

A Heathrow Airport spokeswoman said: "We are currently experiencing some delays.''

Flight information on the airport's website showed several departures to both domestic and international destinations had been cancelled.

A spokeswoman for London City Airport said she believed it was affected in the same way as all London airports, and said a statement would be made as soon as possible.

A spokesman for Luton Airport said it was "experiencing delays across the board" with around 20 flights directly affected at around 9am.

Passenger Speaks From Stranded Aircraft

Alwynne Gwilt has been stuck on a plane at Stansted: "At the moment we've only had one announcement thus far. 

So not a lot of information. 

That came as we were expecting to get the take-off safety information, that sort of thing.

They came on and said they'd be a delay of around 2 hours and 45 minutes."

Statement From easyJet

"easyJet can confirm it is currently experiencing severe delays to flights to, from and within the UK due to a technical problem with UK air traffic control computer systems. 

While the majority of this morning’s flights have now departed, severe delays to flights can be expected at all UK airports throughout the day with cancellations possible later.
We’re doing everything we can to ensure that our passengers are well taken care while our flights await clearance to depart, by keeping them up to date with the latest information and providing them with free refreshments on board.
While these events are outside its control easyJet would like to apologise to its passengers for any inconvenience caused.”

Aviation Expert Gives Analysis

Independent aviation analyst Chris Yates said: "It's going to be a day of frustrations and the knock-on effects are going to last for the whole day because of the backlog of planes.

It will be a tough day for everybody.''

Mr Yates said Swanwick controls all aircraft over the South of England, meaning thousands of passengers would be affected.

He added: "It may be that some maintenance was going on overnight and that has caused the problem, or it could be a fibre-optic cable linking Swanwick with the rest of the UK has failed for some reason.

Passengers due to arrive at UK airports from overseas could find themselves diverted elsewhere.

There are contingency plans in place whenever this happens. 

Many of the long-haul flights, coming from China, India, the US and so on, passengers sitting on those planes may find themselves diverted to continental airports.

But it's going to be a long wait for them. 

When the system kicks back in and starts working, there will be a backlog of flights.

For those waiting to fly out, it's going to be a case of sitting around the airport terminal until things get back to normal."

Update from National Air Traffic Control

NATS said that, while it could not specify when the issue would be fixed, it was: "working as hard as possible to solve the problem'' 

The spokesman said the problem was linked to voice communications, which includes, but is not confined to, the telephone system."

The Airport Operators' Association also reiterated that passengers should contact their airline direct.