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No10 says 'wait for investigation' after suggestions French airline's error led to UK air traffic control chaos
29 August 2023, 13:04 | Updated: 30 August 2023, 06:38
Downing Street has said it will wait to see the results of an investigation into the air traffic control fault after suggestions emerged that a French airline inputting error was to blame.
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Reports have emerged that the firm in France may have triggered the fault by filing a flight plan incorrectly.
The failure forced air traffic controllers in Britain to sort plans manually, leading to a reduction in the amount of flights in the interest of safety.
It led to hundreds of cancelled flights and hours-long delays as passengers were left stranded in airports in the UK and abroad.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Rishi Sunak's official spokesman did not rule out the possibility of an error from a French airline.
"There's going to be an investigation by the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) and a report shared with Government," he said.
"I think (transport secretary) Mark Harper confirmed this morning he'll be getting that in days.
"I'm not going to pre-empt that. I've seen, obviously, various bits of speculation, but I'm not going to pre-empt the work that needs to be done."
He again confirmed Harper's earlier confirmation that it was a technical issue and not a cybersecurity breach.
Asked if British officials were speaking to their French counterparts, the spokesman said "you would expect them to be speaking regularly" with other countries "but I'm not aware of any specific conversations with French counterparts".
The disruption began on Bank Holiday Monday and was repaired within hours - but it led to dozens of flights getting cancelled even today.
Some 1,200 were scrapped on Monday as Brits were left at airports in the UK and abroad for hours.
But there is hope the disruption will start to ease up on Wednesday.
Travel journalist Simon Calder told LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast some 250,000 passengers had been affected across hundreds of cancelled and delayed flights but added: "Things will improve from tomorrow because, I think, by then pretty much all the airlines will have got their pilots and their planes and their cabin crew back where they need to be.
"At the moment, there's just planes strewn all over the place where they weren't expected to be, you've got issues with cabin crew and pilot rest, and that is causing a lot of the problems today.
"By cancelling so many flights, and we're up to about 80 on EasyJet, 60 on British Airways, 40 on Ryanair today, the idea is that you get everything back... press the reset button from Wednesday onwards, things can happen."
Juliet Kennedy, the operations director for National Air Traffic Services, apologised to passengers but warned "it will take some time for flights to return to normal".