Gatwick flight cancellations due to sickness and Covid

Due to a combination of short-term illnesses and the presence of Covid-19 among air traffic control personnel at Gatwick, approximately 82 departures are set to be cancelled in the upcoming week. Stewart Wingate, the airport’s CEO, expressed his frustration with the ongoing issues in Gatwick’s air traffic control department. Wingate disclosed that about 30% of the air traffic control staff is currently unavailable.

The most significant number of cancellations, totaling 33 departures, is anticipated on Friday, September 29th, while no cancellations are foreseen for Tuesday or Saturday. These cancellations account for roughly 3% of Gatwick’s scheduled departures during this period.

The affected staff members are employed by Nats, previously known as the National Air Traffic Service. Discussions will commence tomorrow to determine which flights will be canceled, with airlines expected to be impacted in proportion to their utilization of the airport. EasyJet will bear the brunt of these cancellations, with British Airways and Ryanair also being asked to cancel some of their flights.

Johan Lundgren, the CEO of EasyJet, acknowledged the necessity of imposing a temporary capacity limit at Gatwick Airport. He believes it is the correct course of action to prevent last-minute cancellations and delays. Lundgren emphasized the need for Gatwick Airport and Nats to develop a long-term plan to enhance the resilience of the air traffic service at Gatwick.

EasyJet will collaborate closely with the airport to determine the implications for its flight schedules. The airline will promptly inform affected customers about their options for rebooking or obtaining a refund.

Gatwick recently experienced a series of cancellations due to staffing shortages in air traffic control, prompting the decision to take proactive measures. This decision aims to provide airlines and, most importantly, passengers with greater certainty regarding the operation of scheduled flights this week. Mr. Wingate also cautioned that there may be an elevated risk of delays for other flights during this period.

Looking ahead, October is expected to be a less hectic month for air traffic, and Mr. Wingate anticipates that there will be an adequate number of air traffic control personnel to manage the reduced flight volume, hopefully eliminating the need for further cancellations.

These developments follow a recent data glitch at Nats that caused widespread disruptions to airlines, resulting in grounded flights and thousands of stranded passengers. The UK’s aviation regulator is preparing to launch an investigation into the reasons behind the collapse of the country’s air traffic control system during the summer holiday season.