UK air traffic control network failure hits Gatwick: ‘cyber security incident’ ruled out as airport plans to operate normal schedule

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Gatwick Airport was hit with delays and cancellations on Bank Holiday Monday (August 28) after the UK’s air traffic control system experienced a network failure.

Thousands of passengers were stranded at airports on one of the busiest days of the year, including some who were sat on planes that were unable to take-off.

Some passengers were reportedly not able to get into the UK either.

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At 2.55pm on Monday, London Gatwick said on X (formerly Twitter): “NATS (National Air Traffic Controllers) is currently experiencing a nationwide technical issue. We are seeing multiple delays and cancellations. We apologise for any inconvenience caused and we ask you to contact your airline for further information.”

London Gatwick passengers on the skybridge. Picture: London GatwickLondon Gatwick passengers on the skybridge. Picture: London Gatwick
London Gatwick passengers on the skybridge. Picture: London Gatwick

NATS confirmed early on Monday that they were experiencing a technical issue, which would result in flight delays. They apologised for the disruption, saying that they had applied traffic flow restrictions to maintain safety while engineers worked to locate and fix the fault. The agency clarified that the UK airspace was ‘not closed’ and urged customers to check the status of their flight with their airline.

At 3.15pm NATS announced that they had identified and remedied the technical issue.

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Then at 7.30pm Juliet Kennedy, the Operations Director of NATS, made a statement. She said: “First of all I’d like to apologise for the impact on people’s travel plans today. The issue that we had earlier meant that our automatic system, which provides controllers with details of every aircraft and its route, wasn’t working. Instead, to manage safety, we had to limit the number of flights we could manage. Our teams worked hard to resolve the problem and I’m pleased to say it was fixed earlier on this afternoon. However, it will take some time for flights to return to normal and we will continue to work with the airlines and the airports to recover the situation. Our absolute priority is safety and we will be investigating very thoroughly what happened today. Again I would like to apologise for the impact on the travelling public and to tell you that our teams will continue to work to get you on your way as soon as we can.”

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At around 9.30pm on Monday, August 28, Gatwick issued a message on X, saying: “London Gatwick plans to operate a normal schedule on Tuesday 29 August following disruption today (28 August). Passengers are however advised to check the status of their flight with the airline before travelling to the airport.”

Transport Secretary Mark Harper MP has ruled out the possibility that the failure was caused by a cyber attack.

He told Sky News on Tuesday, August 29: “Our technical experts have looked at it and are clear that it wasn’t a cyber security incident. It was a technical issue yesterday morning. Something of this magnitude will be looked at independently by the Civil Aviation Authority and there will be a report that comes to me and we'll look at that very carefully to see whether there are changes that need to be put in place.”

He added that a failure on this scale had not happened for almost a decade.

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