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Gatwick Airport: Flights delayed and cancelled due to staff shortages

Gatwick Airport: Flights delayed and cancelled due to staff shortages

Thousands of passengers at Gatwick Airport in the UK faced diversions, delays and cancellations yesterday evening due to a shortage of air traffic controllers.

A ‘short notice staff absence’ meant that restrictions had to be put in place yesterday afternoon.

More than 40 flights were cancelled or diverted with some travellers finding themselves as far away as Belgium and Wales. Dozens more were heavily delayed due to the issue with air traffic control.

One passenger complained on X, formerly known as Twitter, that they had “landed at Heathrow airport, supposed to go Gatwick” and had been stuck on the runway for an hour after landing. 

They added that there hadn’t been any information provided on the plane or at the airport.

National Air Traffic Services (NATS) has apologised for its staffing shortages. Gatwick also apologised to affected passengers, advising them to contact their airlines for more information.

Are flights at Gatwick still cancelled?

Gatwick has said its air traffic control tower is now “fully staffed” and it is “operating as normal”.

Travel expert Simon Calder said on X that flights had returned to normal on Friday morning with a “few knock-on delays following the latest issue”.

Passengers wait at Gatwick Airport, south of London.Daniel LEAL / AFP

Why is Gatwick Airport having problems with air traffic control?

It is the second time this month that Gatwick Airport has had problems with air traffic control staffing. On 6 September, ‘short notice staff sickness’ caused dozens of cancellations at the airport.

It reduced the ‘flow rate’ which aircraft could arrive and depart from at Gatwick — the world’s busiest single-runway airport.

NATS has said it is working closely with the airport to build resilience and minimise disruption in the future by training more staff.

It also comes just two weeks after a glitch with air traffic control systems caused widespread cancellations and delays across the UK. Thousands of travellers were stranded overseas due to the disruption.

Can I get compensation if my flight was cancelled?

Unfortunately, you’re unlikely to get compensation if your flight was delayed or cancelled due to air traffic control problems. This is because events like this are labelled as ‘extraordinary circumstances’ and air traffic control is not considered the fault of airlines.

But they do have a duty to rearrange or refund your flight if it was significantly delayed or cancelled. This includes any linked journeys like connecting or return flights.

Passengers are also entitled to hotel accommodation and meals under European rights rules.

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