Tens of thousands of stranded Brits face 'two-week wait for flight home' as air traffic chaos enters third day

30 August 2023, 05:50 | Updated: 30 August 2023, 07:53

Stranded passengers wait in Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam as air traffic chaos enters a third day
Stranded passengers wait in Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam as air traffic chaos enters a third day. Picture: PA/Alamy/Getty
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

Tens of thousands of stranded Brits could face waits of up to two weeks for return flights back to the UK as air traffic control chaos enters its third day.

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Stranded holidaymakers have been forced to foot the bill of staying in accommodation for several nights of face sleeping on the airport flight as they await news on when they will return home.

After thousands of passengers were affected by a technical glitch that hit UK airspace on Monday, analysis shows at least 281 flights were cancelled on Tuesday at the UK's six busiest airports.

Despite the travel chaos, passengers have been told they face no chance of being compensated due to ‘extraordinary circumstances’ outside of the airlines' control.

Some passengers may even have to wait as long as two weeks for their return flights home, The Sun reports.

One couple, Ken Blanks and his wife Lisa, say they have been told their next available flight back from Gran Canaria is in 12 days.

“I’ve finished my holiday but there’s nobody from easyJet talking to us," he told the publication.

“The next flight is in 12 days so we’re stuck here. The airport offered some families hotels but they have to keep getting taxis there and back. It’s 200 euros from the airport.”

Frustrated passengers wait in Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam
Frustrated passengers wait in Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. Picture: PA

Neil Scott, from Newcastle, told LBC he could be stuck in Faro, Portugal, for a week after the air traffic control glitch.

He was set to fly to Glasgow on Monday evening and then head home but now EasyJet have offered them an alternative flight on September 5.

Neil said he will have to take unpaid leave from his social care job if they have to stay until then, and his wife will be late back to her job at a school.

The pair are on holiday with their two teenage sons who also face missing school.

Because he was offered a replacement flight on September 5 by his airline, he cannot book alternative flights and then claim a refund.

Neil said he was left with the possibility of taking unpaid leave as he cannot get home for at least a week.

Read More: ‘You won’t get any compensation’: Thousands of passengers warned they won’t be refunded after air traffic control chaos

Read More: No10 says 'wait for investigation' after suggestions French airline's error led to UK air traffic control chaos

It comes as NATS chief executive Martin Rolfe said there are no indications that the failure was caused by a cyber-attack.

Mr Rolfe said he wanted to "reassure" people that all Nats systems have been running normally since Monday afternoon to support airline and airport operations.

He said: "Very occasionally technical issues occur that are complex and take longer to resolve.

"In the event of such an issue our systems are designed to isolate the problem and prioritise continued safe air traffic control.

"This is what happened yesterday."

The air chief added: "We are already working closely with them to provide a preliminary report to the Secretary of State for Transport on Monday.

"The conclusions of this report will be made public."

The disruption, which began on Bank Holiday Monday, was repaired but the travel chaos is expected to last for some time.

Passengers wait at Stansted Airport, north of London, on August 29, 2023 after UK flights were delayed over a technical issue
Passengers wait at Stansted Airport, north of London, on August 29, 2023 after UK flights were delayed over a technical issue. Picture: Getty

National Air Traffic Services (NATS) said a technical fault caused problems processing flight plans.

They had to be sorted manually, which could not be done at the same speed as the automatic system on one of the busiest travel days of the year.

The fault was "identified and remedied" but the backlog of flights means passengers face days of disruption in the final part of the summer holidays.

Juliet Kennedy, NATS' operations director, apologised to passengers but warned "it will take some time for flights to return to normal".

"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 our teams will continue to work to get you on your way as soon as we can."

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