- Ryanair CEO Dismisses Report on Flight Pandemonium
- Airlines Demand Compensation for Disruption Costs
- Nats’ Initial Report on System Failure and Subsequent Actions
The CEO of Ryanair dismissed as “rubbish” a report on the flight pandemonium over the holiday weekend.
Michael O’Leary argued that the findings “play down the impact on the aviation industry” and that the report is “full of excuses.”
Wednesday, the director of National Air Traffic Services (Nats) stated that the UK’s air traffic control system was brought down by a “one in 15 million” event.
Consequently, hundreds of aircraft were delayed or canceled on August 28.
Airlines UK argues that carriers incurred astronomical expenses in providing lodging and additional aircraft for stranded international passengers.
It now demands that these costs be covered.
Mr. O’Leary stated that the airline would incur between £15 million and £20 million in refunds for hotels, meals, and alternative travel arrangements due to the disruption.
However, he demanded that Nats, which controls the air traffic services in the United Kingdom, “accept responsibility for its incompetence.”
The CEO of WizzAir, Jozsef Varadi, stated that the company and its consumers had “suffered severe disruption” due to flight cancellations and lodging expenses.
The chief executive officer of Airlines UK, Tim Alderslade, stated, “Airlines cannot be the insurer of last resort.”
We cannot have a situation in which airlines shoulder the burden whenever a disruption of this magnitude occurs.
This organization includes British Airways, EasyJet, Jet2, Ryanair, Virgin Atlantic, and Tui.
The CEO of EasyJet, Johan Lundgren, stated that “many questions remain unanswered” following the release of Nats’ preliminary report on the cause of the system failure.
“An incident of this magnitude should not have occurred and must never occur again,” he added, expressing his eagerness for a more “extensive” investigation.
How did the airport pandemonium occur?
In its initial report published on Wednesday, Nats stated that its system received details of a flight scheduled to cross UK airspace later that day at 8:32 a.m. on August 28.
NATS controllers who monitor UK airspace should automatically receive airline flight paths from the national control centre.
The system detected that two waypoints along the route had the same name despite being in separate locations. As a consequence, it was unable to comprehend the United Kingdom portion of the flight plan.
The system automatically shut down for safety, preventing the National Air Traffic Controllers from receiving inaccurate information. The secondary system then followed suit.
This occurred in a mere 20 seconds.
Engineers struggled to resolve the issue and contacted the manufacturer for assistance.
Nats CEO Martin Rolfe said the system “failed safely when it received data that it could not process”
The “one in 15 million” flight plan required the engineers to spend hours figuring out a new predicament.
In five years, the programme had processed over 15 million flight plans, he said.
Nats stated that it had taken steps to prevent a recurrence of the situation.
“We were in a circumstance where thousands of flights were in the air and our systems were unable to process a piece of data. If this were to occur today, we would certainly be able to handle it,” Mr. Rolfe stated.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) will report on an independent review in a few months. The regulator indicated it could take action if Nats violated “statutory and licensing obligations.”
We fully appreciate how disruptive the events over the holiday weekend were for individuals.
With planes and personnel out of position and most flights fully booked, many people were stranded abroad on a bank holiday, which is typically a popular day for travel, and faced lengthy waits to return home.
As the week progressed, airlines added additional flights to clear the backlog.
However, questions persist as to how a single flight plan could have caused such a massive disruption. There was a time when flight plans had to be processed manually, which limited the number that could be managed.
The system was brought back online before 14:30 BST. Air traffic restrictions were not completely lifted until shortly after 18:00.
The Nats and the CAA both assert that safety was never compromised.
The Nats report also cites Eurocontrol data as showing 5,592 flights operated in UK airspace on 28 August, 2,000 (or 25%) fewer than had been expected. This includes flights that were canceled and those that avoided British airspace.
Nats estimates that there were approximately 1,500 flight cancellations on Monday alone, affecting all UK airlines.
“Systems of this nature are used all over the world, but this scenario has never occurred before,” the CAA wrote after its initial evaluation of Nats’s report describing what went wrong.
The CAA stated that the incident “is now comprehended and, should it reoccur, would be quickly resolved with no impact on the aviation system”
Mr. O’Leary said “it is the moral thing to do.” He wants Mark Harper, Transportation Secretary, to make Nats pay airlines.
Mark Harper, Member of Parliament, was delighted to hear that there were no safety concerns.
He added that the aviation watchdog’s independent review will “delve deeper into this incident and determine whether additional steps are needed to strengthen the air traffic control system’s resilience.”