London Gatwick Airport: Thousands of passengers face delays as Covid cancels flights and hits air-traffic controllers
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Staff sickness in the control tower mean the ‘flow rate’ of flights were reduced at the West Sussex airport. This meant 50 flights to and from Gatwick were cancelled or diverted, and an estimated 8,000 passengers left out of position.
EasyJet passengers were most affected by the outbreak, with the airline cancelling a total of 42 flights.
Spanish budget airline Vueling also cancelled six flights, to and from Barcelona, Bilbao and Paris Orly.
Gatwick passengers has been hit by multiple disruptions in recent weeks. A shortage of air traffic controllers meant flights at Gatwick Airport were cancelled, delayed or diverted at short notice on Thursday, September 14.
This incident came just weeks after the UK's air traffic control system was hit by a network failure on August Bank Holiday Monday.
A London Gatwick spokesperson said: “Due to short notice sickness in the air-traffic control tower including cases of Covid-19, temporary air traffic control restrictions were put in place yesterday. This caused some delays and cancellations by airlines.
“We worked hard to minimise disruption and we apologise for any inconvenience. The air-traffic control tower is fully staffed this morning.”
A spokesperson for easyJet said: “We are extremely disappointed that customers are once again being impacted by this and while this is outside of our control, we are sorry for the inconvenience caused to our customers.
“We are doing all possible to minimise the impact of the disruption and have notified those on cancelled flights of their options to rebook or receive a refund and are providing hotel accommodation and meals where required.”
A National Air Traffic Services spokesperson added: “We very much regret that some passengers experienced delays at Gatwick yesterday. This was due to short-notice staff sickness including some incidences of Covid.
“We did all we could to minimise disruption, working closely with the airport and airlines.
“We have worked very hard to increase the number of controllers, but it will take some time to build full resilience. It does mean, though, that short notice absences may lead to air-traffic control regulations being applied in order to maintain safety, and we are all very sorry for the impact this has.”