COVID causes more flight cancellations at Gatwick for the whole of this week

Gatwick cancellations
By Linsey McNeill
26/09/2023
Home » COVID causes more flight cancellations at Gatwick for the whole of this week

London Gatwick Airport has apologised to passengers after being forced to cancel hundreds more flights this week due to yet another shortage of air traffic controllers.

The airport said the problem was caused by further short-term sickness among staff in the control tower, including cases of COVID.

Some 30% of ATC staff are off sick, meaning that temporary air traffic control restrictions have had to be put in place, leading to cancellations.

Disruption started on Sunday and continued into Monday, with late afternoon arrivals still delayed by around an hour and departures leaving around 40 minutes late.

More than 60 flights to and from Gatwick have been cancelled over the past two days, with easyJet the worst affected airline.

Gatwick has since decided to proactively cancel dozens more flights for the rest of this week, up to and including Sunday 1 October.

NATS, which provides ATC services at Gatwick, has placed a limit of 800 flights a day. This means that 29 movements have been cancelled on Wednesday, 40 on Thursday, 65 on Friday and 30 on Sunday.

Passengers are advised to check the status of their flights with their airlines.

In a statement, easyJet said it was ‘extremely disappointed’ that once again customers were being impacted by air traffic control issues, which forced the airline to cancel eight flights just on its Gatwick to Belfast route alone on Sunday. Flights to several other destinations were also affected.

However, it welcomed Gatwick’s decision to proactively cancel flights for the rest of the week.

EasyJet CEO Johan Lundgren said: “While it is regrettable that a temporary limit on capacity at Gatwick Airport is required, we believe that it is the right action by the airport so on-the-day cancellations and delays can be avoided. 

“Gatwick Airport and NATS now need to work on longer term plan so the resilience of ATC at Gatwick is improved and fit for purpose. Our call for a more wide-ranging review of NATS remains so the broader issues can be examined so it can deliver robust services to passengers now and in the future.

“EasyJet will now work with the airport to work through what this means for our flying programme and will notify any customers whose flights are affected as soon as possible with their options to rebook or receive a refund.  While this is outside of our control, we apologise for any inconvenience.”

Gatwick CEO Stewart Wingate apologised to customers but said: “The action we have taken today means our airlines can fly reliable flight programmes, which gives passengers more certainty that they will not face last minute cancellations.

“We are working closely with NATS to build resilience in the control tower and this decision means we can prevent as much disruption as possible.”

NATS admitted to Travel Gossip earlier this month that it will take a while to recruit sufficient staff and, until it does, further flight restrictions will have to be put in place.

Meanwhile, Gatwick passengers face further misery this week and next as the Gatwick Express train service to and from the airport will be cancelled due to a strike by ASLEF union members.

There will be no Thameslink, Great Northern or Gatwick Express services operating on 30 September and 4 October.

A limited Southern shuttle service will run, calling at Gatwick Airport and London Victoria only on these days.

“These services will be extremely busy, a queueing system will be in place, and you may not be able to board your chosen service,” said Gatwick Express.

“If you are planning to travel on one of the last trains of the day, please be aware that, depending on the size of the queue, you may not be able to board a service at all, and no alternative transport options will be provided after the last train departs. Please plan ahead.

“Due to industrial action affecting the vast majority of rail services across the country, onward travel options from London Victoria will be limited. Please plan ahead and check your whole journey before travelling.”

The disruption from the strike day on 30 September will have a knock-on effect on 1 October, which means that the first services of the day will begin much later than normal, with some routes having no services before 7am, at the earliest.

An amended timetable with fewer services will also run on 29 September and from Monday 2 October to Friday 6 October inclusive.

On Thursday 5 October some routes will have no services before 7am due to the knock-on effect from the ASLEF strike day on Wednesday 4 October and the non-stop Gatwick Express will not operate. Instead the service from London Victoria to Gatwick and Brighton will stop at Clapham Junction and East Croydon.

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