Air traffic control failure was caused by flight data received by NATS which saw primary and backup systems suspend automatic processing, chief executive says
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The air traffic control failure was caused by flight data received by National Air Traffic Services (Nats), with both primary and back-up systems responding by suspending automatic processing, chief executive Martin Rolfe has said.
The air traffic fault has led to thousands of Brits being stranded, with young children forced to sleep on airport floors with only chocolate bars for nourishment.
As the crisis pushes into a second day, frustration is rising over the lack of support and compensation from airlines.
Dozens more flights were grounded today on top of more than 1,200 cancellations yesterday after the suspension of air traffic control (ATC) by Nats.
Thousands of holidaymakers have been left stuck abroad as a result, with some being told they won’t be able to get a flight home for a staggering 12 days.
In a statement this evening Mr Rolfe said the systems responded to the failure by ‘suspending automatic processing to ensure that no incorrect safety-related information could be presented to an air traffic controller or impact the rest of the air traffic system’.
He extended his apology to British families whose holidays have either come to a stressful end or have barely started at all. He also reassured there are no indications that a cyber attack caused the failures.
‘I would like to apologise again for our technical failure yesterday. While we resolved the problem quickly, I am very conscious that the knock-on effects at such a busy time of year are still being felt by many people travelling in and out of the UK.
‘I would like to reassure everyone that since yesterday afternoon all of our systems have been running normally to support airline and airport operations as they recover from this incident.
‘Nats exists to allow everyone flying in UK airspace to do so safely. Our systems enable our air traffic controllers to deliver this service all year round.
‘These have several levels of backup and allow us to manage around two million flights per year in some of the busiest and most complex airspace in the world safely and efficiently,’ he added.
Data shows at least 281 flights – including departures and arrivals – were cancelled today at the UK’s six busiest airports.
Earlier today the boss of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) confirmed that passengers can expect to be provided with food and drink as well as accommodation if delayed overnight. There will also be an investigation into the incident.
However, scores of people have reported that they are spending the night sleeping on the floor of airports, with many more complaining about the lack of a proper meal with little left in cafes and shops.
Some stranded passengers have said they have been given camp beds laid out on the airport floor and others are warned not to bother travelling.