Tourists stranded at London Heathrow due to air traffic control chaos
‘It’s been a s*** show!’: Tearful tourists stranded at London Heathrow due to UK air traffic control meltdown tell of chaos and confusion at Europe’s busiest airport as flights are cancelled
- Thousands of stranded Brits are warned disruption will continue into the week
- UK air traffic control LIVE: Follow for latest updates after airspace failure
Tourists who have been left stranded at London Heathrow due to an air traffic control meltdown have described the chaos and confusion at Europe’s busiest airport – as hundreds of flights in and out of the UK were cancelled today.
Britain’s National Air Traffic Services (NATS) said it experienced ‘technical issues’ that forced controllers to switch from an automatic system for landing and dispatching flights to a manual one. The fault triggered a day of havoc for furious holidaymakers.
At 3.15pm, a positive update was given that the technical issue had been ‘identified and remedied’ but widespread disruption is expected to continue into the week, according to experts.
As many as 80 per cent of flights leaving the UK are delayed today, causing chaos for tens of thousands of holidaymakers on one of the busiest days of the year.
Heathrow has urged passengers only to travel to the airport if flights are ‘confirmed to be operating’, adding: ‘Schedules still remain significantly disrupted.’
Alexandra Bass was making her first trip abroad from the US without her husband and daughter in ten years. Fighting back tears, the 42-year-old said: ‘It’s been a s***show from start to finish.
Alexandra Bass was making her first trip abroad from the US without her husband and daughter in ten years. She said it was a ‘s***show from start to finish’
Passengers have been left stranded at Heathrow Airport (pictured) amid the air traffic control chaos
A spokesman for Heathrow urged passengers only to travel to the airport if flights were ‘confirmed to be operating’, adding: ‘Schedules still remain significantly disrupted.’
‘My flight to Lisbon was cancelled earlier this afternoon and the airline has lost my luggage, which is extremely worrying because I had heart failure recently and the medication I need is in that bag.
‘I’m trying to get on a later flight to Portugal tonight but nobody knows what’s going on or whether there are definitely any flights.
Flight chaos to last for DAYS: Thousands of stranded Brits are warned disruption will continue into the week despite ‘network failure’ being ‘remedied’
‘It’s ridiculous because some Heathrow staff have said there are but then others have said there aren’t any and so I don’t know who to believe and am in limbo.’
Ms Bass said she has no idea whether to stay at Heathrow in case there is a later flight, or whether to book a hotel and come back tomorrow. She added: ‘The communication has been non-existent from American Airlines and British Airways.
Ms Bass, who has been travelling since 5am yesterday when she left Florida, said: ‘I’m exhausted because it’s been one issue after another’.
She was supposed to fly to London via Charlotte in North Carolina but was forced to go to Dallas instead which caused the first delay. Then, after landing at Heathrow, she ahd to wait 30 to 30 minutes while the plane could find somehwere to disembark.
However, when she finally got to the terminal, she was told her connecting flight to Libson had been cancelled due to air traffic control issues.
Ms Bass added: ‘I’m supposed to be meeting a half-brother of mine. We’ve never met but began talking about ten-years ago. I know it’ll be ok in the end but it’s so frustrating because nobody is really telling me anything. It’s all mixed signals.’
Facilities coordinator Warren Culley (pictured), 34, meanwhile was hoping to travel back home to Belfast today. He had travelled to London to attend the All Elite Wrestling – AWE -event at Wembley Stadium over the weekend but is now stuck
Thousands of passengers were impacted by the delays. Father and son Richard Bocker, 57, and Gido Brocker, 19 (left), and Osvaldo and Patricia Demuru (right)
At around 1.45pm today, the majority (78 per cent) of flights leaving Heathrow were delayed. As of 6.20pm, this has dropped to 45 per cent, while 49 per cent have been cancelled, according to Flight Radar.
A spokesman for Heathrow said at 5.20pm this afternoon: ‘The technical issue which limited UK air traffic today has been fixed by NATS. Schedules still remain significantly disrupted.
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‘Please only travel to the airport if your flight is confirmed to be operating. We are working hard to minimise the impacts and assist those affected.
Osvaldo Demuru, 65, has also faced major delays after his Iberia Airlines flight to Madrid was cancelled earlier this afternoon.
He was supposed to be getting a connecting flight home to Buenos Aires in Argentina at midnight but has instead headed back to his daughter’s house in Hatfield, Hertfordshire and will try again tomorrow.
He said: ‘It’s been ridiculous, it was absolute chaos at the airport this afternoon.
‘Nobody seemed to know what was going on. The flight to Madrid earlier today was cancelled but I was hoping to still make the flight to Buenos Aires with a later flight from Heathrow to Spain tonight.
‘But there’s so much confusion. Some of the staff have been rude and I know that this is stressful situation but that’s no excuse.
‘I can’t get a straight answer from anyone today so I’m going back to my daughter’s and will start again tomorrow as my original flight has now been rescheduled to tomorrow afternoon.
‘It’s annoying as my daughter drove me the 40-minutes to Heathrow with my wife Patricia coming along as well. My wife is staying with my daughter for a few more months.
‘The airline could have given us prior notice via an email or phone call. It’s a waste of time and petrol.’
Facilities coordinator, Warren Culley, 34, meanwhile was hoping to travel back home to Belfast today.
He had travelled to London to attend the All Elite Wrestling – AWE -event at Wembley Stadium over the weekend but is now stuck.
The majority (78%) of flights leaving Heathrow are currently delayed, according to Flight Radar data from 1.45pm, compared to 74% at Gatwick, 81% at Manchester and 86% at Bristol
A busy Terminal 5 at London Heathrow Airport as computer systems cause further delays for travellers during the bank holiday
Michele Robson, who used to work in air traffic control, said that it was ‘unusual’ for failures to last this long
A woman points at a flight board at Heathrow Airport as hundreds of flights were cancelled and many more were delayed
He fumed: ‘I got to the airport really early as I checked out the hotel at 11am this morning and came straight here for a 5.15pm flight.
‘I got checked in and went through security but was told the air traffic control crisis had meant that the flight was cancelled.
‘We were advised to leave Heathrow as everything was being cancelled. There were huge queues coming out of Terminal 5 so it took more than an hour.
‘As you can imagine, tempers were frayed. I came back into the airport because I saw that another BA flight to Belfast was still showing as taking off tonight.
‘But I’ve been told that that flight has also been cancelled and the BA mobile phone app hasn’t updated.
‘That’s caused so much confusion as BA staff keep telling us to check the app but the app isn’t working properly.
‘I’ve had enough. I’m off to find a hotel. I’ve phoned my boss to tell him I’m not going to be in tomorrow morning. I feel like getting drunk!’
The Liberal Democrats called on the Prime Minister to convene a Cobra meeting over the issue
Holidaymakers stand around as they face long delays at Heathrow Airport following the air traffic control issues
Michele Robson, who used to work in air traffic control, said that it was ‘unusual’ for failures to last this long. As a result, ‘nobody really knows at this point how long it’s going to take,’ she told BBC Radio 4.
The Liberal Democrats called on the Prime Minister to convene a Cobra meeting over the issue.
Transport spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said: ‘Rishi Sunak and his ministers need to get a grip on this issue urgently and hold a Cobra meeting.
‘Millions of holidaymakers could be facing huge disruption in the coming days due to this fault and we can’t risk this Government being missing in action yet again.
‘Brits need to know that the Government is doing all it can to make sure people aren’t hit with major delays and disruptions in the coming days.’
Travel expert Simon Calder warned the situation would be ‘miserable’.
‘There is very little slack in the system and there are hundreds of planes up in the sky heading to the UK,’ he told Sky News.
‘What’s going to happen to those aircraft, will some of them get down if they are in the vicinity of the airfield.
‘Otherwise you will see planes held on the ground in places like Amsterdam or otherwise being diverted if they’re on a longer flight. That would typically be to a continental airport or an Irish airport.’
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