'It's been an extraordinary week': Gatwick Airport boss speaks out on UK flights chaos
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"We have done a lot of work to look after our passengers as best we can,” he said. Gatwick Airport had operated normally until Monday afternoon, he said, when more than 1,500 flights to and from the UK were grounded following a fault with flight plan systems at National Air Traffic Services.
The fault has seen passengers stranded abroad and in this country, having to find alternative routes home. Some are unlikely to be able to get flights until next week as airlines struggle to recover from the air traffic control crisis.
But, Stewart said, it was an ‘extraordinarily rare’ incident and he was confident that the situation would not deter air travellers in future.
"The last time we had an outage with NATS was about a decade ago,” he said. “Clearly we would prefer this not to have happened. Independent reviews will look at this in detail and I’m sure everybody, including NATS, will agree that as a result of this work even more resilience has to be put into the NATS system.
"It was very disappointing what happened this week but I really don’t think this will deter travelling in the long term.” Airlines are still cancelling flights but the Gatwick boss said the airport had been operating normally since yesterday afternoon.
He spoke out as the airport announced its financial results for the first half of this year which showed the airport had seen a 41 per cent increase in passengers and a 45 per cent increase in revenue compared to the same time last year. Net profit for the period was £79.1 million, up 56 per cent.
Meanwhile, Rob Bishton, joint-interim chief executive of the UK Civil Aviation Authority, said of the flight disruption: “We know there are many passengers overseas that are impacted by flight delays and cancellations which can be frustrating when wanting to get home after a trip abroad.
“The scale of the disruption has meant passengers have faced longer delays and in some cases are waiting several days for alternative flights, but airlines are working around the clock, putting on extra capacity to resolve the issue.
“If you are still waiting to come home, airlines have a responsibility to look after you while you wait. This means providing you with meals, refreshments and hotel accommodation. If airlines cannot do this, you can organise your own meals and accommodation then claim costs back.
“We are engaging with airlines and know that more flights are being provided, but in circumstances where this has not been possible due to the volume of passengers, consumers can book their own alternative air travel and claim the cost back from their airline.
"If you end up paying for things yourself or booking your own replacement flight or hotel, keep every receipt and make sure your claim is not excessive.”