Weeks of delays expected at Heathrow and Gatwick as air traffic controllers go digital

4 April 2018, 08:59

Passengers at London's two busiest airports are expecting weeks of delays as air traffic controllers switch to a digital system.

The disruption at Heathrow and Gatwick is being caused as NATS replaces paper flight information strips with new technology at its control centre in Swanwick, Hampshire.

The number of flights allowed to land at the airports will be reduced as staff gain confidence in using the new system in a live environment.

A spokesperson told Sky News that "months of planning have gone into making this whole process safe and predictable".

However, arrivals at Heathrow will be limited to 80% of maximum capacity for 10 days from Wednesday - with average delays of 20 minutes expected.

For the following 10 days, the airport will be limited to 90% of its maximum capacity.

The NATS spokesperson added: "Travellers could be delayed by around 20 minutes on flights bound for Heathrow and Gatwick.

"There may also be minor delays into Stansted, Luton and London City. It will mainly affect arrivals at the two airports, although some take-offs may also be delayed."

People living under flight paths will also be affected as NATS has requested permission to land some planes "slightly earlier and slightly later than usual", reducing the overnight respite from aircraft noise.

NATS said the introduction of the digital system is an important step in the modernisation of how the UK's airspace is managed.

It is part of a £700m programme to cope with growing demand for air travel.

UK air traffic is expected to grow from 2.6 million flights last year to 3.1 million in 2030.

Passengers with concerns about their travel plans can find out more here.