Travellers flying out of Stanstead and Gatwick today are facing a day of travel chaos due to a lack of staff in air traffic control which caused dozens of flights to be delayed, cancelled and diverted and passengers to bed down in the airport for the night.
In Stanstead, passengers have complained of enormous ques to get through security and passport control with some claiming that the process took almost two hours to complete.
The airport has not yet confirmed the reason for the queues with some passengers claiming they had been told it was due to a ‘computer backup’ and ‘problems at Gatwick.’
Air traffic control restrictions had been put in place last night following a short notice staff absence that impacted the London airport’s air traffic control team, the National Air Traffic Services (Nats) claimed last night.
This meant dozens of arrivals and departures were affected, with passengers being advised to contact their airline prior to travelling.
It’s not much better news for travellers this morning with the airport already experiencing several technical issues resulting in dozens of flights being delayed.
Holidaymakers claim that they had minimal information from airlines during the evening and night and were left to fend for themselves in the empty terminals after hotels were booked up.
Dozens of flights are delayed at Gatwick airport this morning following air traffic control issues
Travellers were forced to bed down for the night on the floor of Gatwick airport
Holidaymaker Caroline Monks fears she will now lose her holiday due to the cancellations
Sarah Burham (right) was forced to sleep in the terminal overnight following the flight cancellations
Furious Gatwick passengers have taken to social media to complain of their treatment
Speaking to ITV, passenger Caroline Monks criticised the airport for the way the situation had been handled.
‘Our whole holiday could be cancelled’, she said, ‘we’d be losing our whole holiday if we can’t get another flight.’
Debbie Barrett agreed adding it was ‘disgusting’ the way passengers had been treated.
Sarah Burnham said: ‘We couldn’t find anywhere to sleep so we decided just to stay here.’
The air traffic control situation not only meant that some flights couldn’t take off from Gatwick but that many couldn’t land.
This meant that tired travelers set to touch down at the airport where diverted to sites across the country with one fight being diverted to Brussels whilst over the English Channel.
Sally Richards was on the diverted flight and said: ‘Just as we were crossing the Channel we were told they had received a message saying Gatwick was closed and they had no idea why.
‘We’ve got back to Britain and it feels like Britain is simply not working.’
traveller complained on X, formerly known as Twitter, that Gatwick has travellers ‘standing outside in the cold for the last hour waiting on a coach for a Ryanair flight in Stansted’.
Another complained of long queues at the Border Force checkpoint in the south terminal.
One passenger even claimed that a flight had been diverted to Bournemouth airport, which is more than 100 miles away from Gatwick.
‘We apologise very sincerely to people who have been inconvenienced [as a result of unavoidable diversions,’ a Nats spokesperson said in a statement.
‘We are working closely with Gatwick Airport Ltd to build resilience in the airport’s control tower to ensure disruption is kept to a minimum.’
Nats has been recruiting new air traffic controllers since last summer and has increased its presence by 17 per cent, the agency claimed.
Other workers are due to start after completing their training, in line with the agreed plan when the agency took over the contract last October.
Dozens of arrivals and departures were affected, with passengers being advised to contact their airline prior to travelling
Travellers faced widespread disruption last month after the air traffic control system was hit by a technical glitch. Disrupted passengers are pictured at Belfast Airport on August 28
More than a quarter of flights to and from UK airports were cancelled that day, affecting around 250,000 people. Pictured: Disrupted travellers at Gatwick Airport on August 29
‘London Gatwick’s senior management understands that we are working hard to keep the operation moving,’ the spokesperson added.
‘Airlines operating at London Gatwick were aware of the situation when Nats was appointed but that does not dilute the apology we offer sincerely to them and their passengers who have been inconvenienced by recent disruption.’
Gatwick has apologised for the situation, adding in a statement: ‘Nats are a world-class provider of air traffic services and London Gatwick’s senior management recognises how hard the airport’s air traffic controllers are working to keep the operation moving.
‘We are working closely with Nats to build resilience in the airport’s control tower to ensure disruption is kept to a minimum.’
Travellers faced widespread disruption last month after the air traffic control system was hit by a technical glitch on August 28. More than a quarter of flights to and from UK airports were cancelled that day, affecting around 250,000 people.
Cancellations continued for two more days as planes and crews were out of position.
Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary told the BBC: ‘It is unacceptable that more flights and hundreds of passengers are suffering delays to/from Gatwick Airport due to Nats CEO Martin Rolfe’s blatant failure to adequately staff UK ATC.
Cancellations continued for two more days as planes and crews were out of position. Passengers are pictured waiting at Stansted Airport on August 29
‘Airlines are paying millions of pounds to Nats each and every year and should not have to see their passengers suffer avoidable delays due to UK ATC staff shortages.’
Rory Boland, of consumer group Which?, said: ‘It is unacceptable that some Gatwick passengers have been hit by further air traffic control problems so soon after the chaos a few weeks ago.
‘This is not an issue caused by airlines, but they must meet their legal obligations to look after passengers and provide them with support during delays and help with refunds and rerouting – including with other carriers if necessary.
‘To help end this cycle of miserable passenger experiences, the Prime Minister must play his part and prioritise legislation to give the CAA stronger enforcement powers in the King’s Speech later this year.’