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UK Air Traffic Control Experiences Computer Glitch, Causing Disruption for Thousands of Passengers

Thousands of passengers have been affected after a computer network failure forced air traffic controllers to reduce the number of planes in the air over the UK.

National Air Traffic Services (NATS) imposed traffic flow restrictions “to maintain safety” after its flight processing data system crashed.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper later said a “technical issue” affecting NATS had been “resolved.”

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Mr Harper, writing on X, formerly known as Twitter, he said he and Aviation Minister Charlotte Vere were “continuing to work with NATS to help them manage affected flights and support passengers.”

Mr. Harper, a former chief whip, was appointed Transport Secretary by Mr. Sunak in October 2022.

NATS did not at any point close UK airspace but had to apply air traffic flow restrictions.

It is understood long-haul flights were largely unaffected by the problem and the brunt of the delays and cancellations were with short-haul flights.

Michele Robson, a travel blogger who is stranded at the airport in Jersey, said: “It looks like a failure of both air traffic control centres, according to Eurocontrol. That’s unusual as it’s normally only one centre that goes down. It appears to be the flight data processing system.”

Ms. Robson was due to fly back to London from the Channel Islands on Monday lunchtime but she told The Epoch Times: “We are being told we are delayed indefinitely as nothing for the UK is allowed to depart. It is currently showing an 8pm departure.”

She said: “We’ve been told there are likely to be cancellations. Even if they get the system back quickly it will still have very low traffic rates until they know it is stable.”

Passengers in Jersey ‘Resigned’ to Delays

Ms. Robson said most of the passengers in Jersey seemed quite “resigned” to the situation but she added, “A lot of people are worried about getting back for work tomorrow.”

Earlier the Liberal Democrats have called on the prime minister, Rishi Sunak, to convene a Cobra meeting over the air traffic control issue.

The party’s transport spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said: “Rishi Sunak and his ministers need to get a grip on this issue urgently and hold a Cobra meeting.”

“Millions of holidaymakers could be facing huge disruption in the coming days due to this fault and we can’t risk this government being missing in action yet again,” she added.

“Brits need to know that the government is doing all it can to make sure people aren’t hit with major delays and disruptions in the coming days,” added Ms. Hobhouse.

Labour’s shadow transport secretary, Louise Haigh, wrote on X: “Extremely concerning for passengers travelling in and out of the UK on one of the busiest days of the year. UK airspace is not closed but significant delays are expected thanks to a technical fault.”

Transport Secretary Mark Harper arrives for a government's Cobra emergency committee meeting at the Cabinet Office in London, on Dec. 14, 2022. (Victoria Jones/PA Media)
Transport Secretary Mark Harper arrives for a government’s Cobra emergency committee meeting at the Cabinet Office in London, on Dec. 14, 2022. (Victoria Jones/PA Media)

One of Britain’s biggest package holiday companies, TUI, wrote on Twitter: “Due to an air traffic control outage across UK airports, we expect that this may cause significant delays to some of our flights … We apologise for any inconvenience caused.”

Earlier Glasgow-based Loganair warned customers on X, formally known as Twitter, flights could be delayed because of the computer problem.

In a statement, the airline said: “There has been a network-wide failure of UK air traffic control computer systems this morning.”

It added: “Although we are hopeful of being able to operate most intra-Scotland flights on the basis of local co-ordination and with a minimum of disruption, north-south and international flights may be subject to delays.”

“If you are flying with us today, please check our website for the latest information about your flight before setting off for the airport,” the statement concluded.

UK Covered by Two Air Traffic Control Centres

Britain has two major air traffic control centres, one at Swanwick near Southampton, and the other at Prestwick in Scotland.

Swanwick controls flights in the London Flight Information Region (FIR), across the southern half of the UK, while Prestwick manages the Scottish FIR, which covers Scotland, Northern Ireland and a small part of northern England.

The Irish transport minister, Jack Chambers, told RTE radio: “Traffic flow restrictions have been introduced to maintain safety in the sky and it will have significant impacts on passengers flying in and out of Dublin, and there are multiple

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