Dozens of flights at Gatwick face being cancelled after mass delays following air traffic control staff shortages

25 September 2023, 19:20 | Updated: 25 September 2023, 21:48

Thousands of people are stranded at Gatwick
Thousands of people are stranded at Gatwick. Picture: Social media/@BeingHemilistic

By Will Taylor

Gatwick will restrict flights for the rest of the week, forcing dozens of cancellations, after a Covid outbreak among its air traffic controllers.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Thousands of passengers have faced delays due to the shortages, with 50 flights either arriving or leaving the airport having been cancelled on Sunday and a further 80 being scrapped on Monday.

National Air Traffic Services (Nats) said the disruption was due to "short-notice staff sickness including some incidences of Covid".

Gatwick will limit itself to 800 flights a day, meaning 65 will be cut on Friday, 40 on Thursday and 30 on both Wednesday and Sunday.

The airport will announce which get cut but believes it can put passengers who see their service scrapped on new flights.

"We are working closely with Nats to build resilience in the control tower, and this decision means we can prevent as much disruption as possible," said Stewart Wingate, Gatwick's CEO.

"London Gatwick would like to sincerely apologise to any passengers who have been impacted by these restrictions.”"

Dozens of easyJet flights were among those affected after a drop in the "flow rate" of planes.

The airline said it was "extremely disappointed" by the issues, which saw eight flights cancelled to and from Belfast as well others to or from Edinburgh, Geneva and Paris.

Vueling was forced to cancel six flights to and from Barcelona, Bilbao and Paris.

Read more: Counter-terror cops resume full duties after handing back guns over Chris Kaba charge

Read more: Lucy Letby faces retrial for one count of attempted murder against a baby girl

Daniel Wilkes, a consultant psychiatrist from Angus, told the Independent: "I just can’t believe the lack of contingency planning from Nats for staff sickness and that this is happening again.

"Plus, airports and airlines have had quite a while to firm up their processes for cancellations, and yet always the poorly managed scrum ensues.

"Bizarrely, we were made to exit through border control. I didn’t even have my passport as it was a domestic flight."

Others complained online over the disruption, with one person posting on X: "@NATS can’t believe we have had another @easyJet flight from Murcia to Gatwick cancelled. The 2nd one in 3 months. Clearly more staff are required in air traffic. You need to sort this out urgently. You are causing chaos. Lucky we have [our] own [accommodation] for another night!"

A second person said: @Gatwick_Airport When are you you going to sort out the ATC issues at LGW, this has been going on for over a year now…..I find myself delayed again due to the ATC short staff issues….why?? I work in travel and all the alerts we receive are related to delays in arrivals at LGW??"

A third person posted: "My d & her boyfriend had Easyjet flights booked from Edinburgh to Gatwick today, cancelled. Alternative flight offered was scheduled in less than one hour from the notice they were given. So they’ve hired a car to drive it. Nearly 8 hours, & then on in their own car. Not good."

It is the third time in a month that Gatwick passengers have faced chaos due to staff sickness, following incidents on September 14 and September 6.

There was also a major technical glitch on August 28, which caused widespread disruption across airports in the UK, leaving holidaymakers stranded.

Nats said: "With 30% of tower staff unavailable for a variety of medical reasons including Covid, we cannot manage the number of flights that were originally planned for this week.

"Our operational resilience in the tower will improve as our staff return to work and we move out of the summer schedule, which is particularly busy at Gatwick."

It continued: "We continue to train additional air traffic controllers and expect another group to qualify to work in the tower over coming months, ready for next summer."

More Latest News

See more More Latest News

Volodymyr Zelensky

Western leaders arrive in Kyiv as Ukraine marks invasion anniversary

Charles has shared a message of support for Ukraine

King Charles hails 'heroism' of Ukrainians as world leaders mark second anniversary of Russian invasion in Kyiv

Junior doctors have gone on strike again

Junior doctors walk out for five-day strike amid long-standing pay row, in latest round of NHS industrial action

Sarah Oliver was killed in the collision

Woman killed by driver who sped through red light while on her phone, as she is jailed for nine years

Spain Building Fire

10th body found in charred remnants of Valencia apartment building

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva

Brazilian president accuses Israel of committing genocide in Gaza

Hamilton Palace is said to be abandoned

Crumbling Sussex mansion abandoned by millionaire developer 'is UK's biggest slum' and is 'magnet for drug abuse'

Yulia Navalnaya

Navalny widow accuses Putin of mocking Christianity for refusing to return body

Grant Shapps has vowed that Britain will back Ukraine 'to the end'

'We will be there to the end': Shapps vows UK will back Ukraine until war is over, as Britain gives £245m military aid

LBC spoke to a mother and daughter from the war-torn city of Mariupol

Ukrainian refugees accuse Home Office of becoming ‘tired of Ukraine’ after altering resettlement schemes

Rishi Sunak has been urged to strip Liz Truss of the Conservative whip

Labour urges Rishi Sunak to strip former PM Liz Truss of Conservative whip after claim of 'deep state sabotage'

Ursula von der Leyen

EC chief von der Leyen arrives in Kyiv as Ukraine marks invasion anniversary

Mel B

'I went from Spice Girls tour to sharing a bed with my kids': Mel B had just £700 in the bank after leaving abusive ex

King Charles

King Charles chuckles at funny get-well card, one of 7,000 he was sent after cancer diagnosis

Palestine protesters outside Parliament

Palestine protest leader 'wanted Parliament to have to lock its doors', as fears grow for MP's safety

Election 2024 Trump

Trump says criminal indictments boosted his appeal to Black voters