Shelagh Fogarty 1pm - 4pm
Travel misery as Heathrow flights delayed because of strong winds and staff shortages
19 November 2023, 17:38
Passengers at Heathrow have faced delays on Sunday, with high winds and staff shortages meaning air traffic control restrictions had to be brought in.
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Heathrow Airport said strong winds had caused "minor changes" to schedules, but air traffic control bosses said short-notice staff absences had also been a factor.
Disgruntled passengers hit out on social media about the delays - but officials said air traffic control restrictions were a safety measure.
A spokesperson for Heathrow said on Sunday: "Strong wind is forecast today, while there may be minor changes to today's schedule as a result of the weather, we want to reassure passengers that our colleagues are working in close collaboration with our airline and air traffic control partners to get them safely on their journeys as quickly as possible"
Passengers should check with their airline for the latest information, the spokesperson added.
The National Air Traffic Services (Nats) said: "Due to short notice staff absence in the tower and strong winds at Heathrow, temporary ATC restrictions are currently in place," Nats said in a statement.
"We expect the situation to improve this afternoon.
"We are working hard to minimise disruption, working closely with Heathrow airport and airlines.
"Passengers should check the status of their flight with their airline.
"Restrictions of this sort are only ever applied to ensure safety and we apologise for any inconvenience caused."
British Airways said that it had made some changes to its short-haul flight schedule because of the restrictions.
"Air traffic control restrictions imposed on all airlines at London Heathrow mean we've had to make some adjustments to our short-haul schedule," a spokesperson said.
"We've contacted affected customers to apologise and offer them rebooking options or a full refund."
One frustrated passenger trying to fly to New York via Heathrow for their 40th birthday said that their trip had been ruined.
"Not expected to depart for a further 2 hours, which means missing our transfer to New York. My 40th birthday celebration is turning disastrous,” they said.
Another said: "We’ve been held on the tarmac at MCR Airport because Heathrow accepting reduced number of flights."