Ryanair sues air traffic control body Nats over 'terrible' flight delays

24 April 2024, 12:53 | Updated: 24 April 2024, 15:03

Ryanair is suing air traffic control body Nats over last summer's flight chaos when more than 700,000 passengers were hit by cancellations and delays.

The low-cost carrier's chief executive Michael O'Leary said his company had been forced to pay out around £15m in compensation following the widespread disruption around the August Bank Holiday Monday.

An investigation into the meltdown found it was caused by a National Air Traffic Services (Nats) technical glitch during the processing of a flight plan.

Regulator the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said the chaos had also been fuelled by a "lack of planning" and engineers working from home.

Around 300,000 people suffered cancellations, while approximately 95,000 endured delays of over three hours, and at least a further 300,000 were hit by shorter delays.

Airlines lost a total of £100m in refunds, rebookings, hotel rooms and refreshments.

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Mr O'Leary said it was unfair that Ryanair and other carriers had been forced to stump up costs when they had not been to blame.

He told Sky's Business Live with Ian King: "When things go wrong in the airline industry, we have to compensate our passengers and we want to recover those costs directly from Nats.

"We continue to call for the chief executive of Nats, Martin Rolfe, to either step down or be dismissed. We think he's demonstrated he's incapable of running an efficient ATC [air traffic control] service.

"We're the same size in the UK as we are in Italy. Last year in the UK, 7,000 Ryanair flights were delayed because of either Nats short-staffing or system failures. Only 170 flights in Italy were affected by Nats delays."

Mr O'Leary added: "So, it's a terrible service that Nats is providing. We pay them over £100m a year in ATC fees and we're entitled to expect a better service.

"The August Bank Holiday weekend last year was a complete shambles."

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A spokeswoman for Nats told Sky News: "We were served with legal proceedings this week confirming that Ryanair is initiating a High Court claim against Nats... in connection with the events of 28 August last year.

"Our legal team is reviewing the claim and will respond as required."

It came as Ryanair issued a new forecast on Wednesday in which it predicted that its British traffic would grow 22% by 2030, up from the current 53 million passengers per year to 65 million travellers.

Mr O'Leary also renewed warnings that passenger fares could rise 10% this summer and revealed the airline planned to restart flights to Tel Aviv in Israel in June, if the security situation allowed.