Thousands of passengers were stuck on the tarmac all over the United Kingdom and abroad today, after planes leaving and flying to Britain were grounded following a “technical issue” that hit British air traffic control (ATC) systems, officials said.
The UK’s National Air Traffic Services (NATS) said that it had “applied traffic flow restrictions to maintain safety” across its airports. It did not provide any further information about what caused the ATC problems.
The disruption came on one of the busiest travel days of the year, with many people returning from holidays on the last Bank Holiday weekend of the summer.
NATS said that a technical issue was affecting its “ability to automatically process flight plans” and they were working to solve the issue “as quickly as possible”. That was the situation until afternoon British time.
“Until our engineers have resolved this, flight plans are being input manually, which means we cannot process them at the same volume, hence we have applied traffic flow restrictions. Our technical experts are looking at all possible solutions to rectify this as quickly as possible,” said NATS.
“Our priority is ensuring every flight in the UK remains safe and doing everything we can to minimise the impact,” it added. “We are sincerely sorry for the disruption this is causing.”
NATS describes itself as the country’s leading provider of ATC services, which handles 2.5 million flights and 250 million passengers in a “normal year”.
British Airways said that it was working with NATS to “understand the impact” of the issue, and that it would keep customers updated. Other airlines were also asking customers to check for updates.
Scottish airline Loganair was the first to report a “network-wide failure of UK air traffic control systems this morning”.
Several airports across the UK, and airlines including Ryanair, EasyJet, Wizz Air, Loganair and Aer Lingus have all warned passengers of delays or cancellations to flights, BBC reported.