Gatwick Airport Confronts Flight Cancellations Due to Controller Shortage

London’s Gatwick Airport confronted a substantial hurdle, as it announced on Monday the cancellation of over 160 flights by the coming Sunday. This unfortunate predicament is primarily attributed to a severe shortage of air traffic controllers, exacerbated by cases of Covid-19.

In an official statement, the airport revealed its decision to cap the daily number of flights, encompassing both departures and arrivals, at 800 per day. This restriction will remain in effect until Saturday, October 1. Importantly, this determination was made in cooperation with NATS, the British air traffic control authority.

The airport’s rationale behind implementing this daily flight limit is to proactively avert last-minute flight cancellations and passenger delays while NATS addresses staffing challenges stemming from illnesses and constraints. Presently, 30% of controllers are unavailable, citing various medical reasons, including Covid-19.

Stewart Wingate, the director of London Gatwick, the second-largest airport in London after Heathrow, clarified the situation, stating, “This has been a difficult decision, but the action we are taking today (Monday) means that airlines will be able to operate on a reliable flight schedule.”

These challenges faced by the British air traffic control authority follow a significant system breakdown at the end of August, resulting in the cancellation of nearly 2,000 flights over two days, along with numerous delays. In response to this incident, the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has initiated an independent investigation into the broader issues surrounding the system failure and NATS’ response to the incident.

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