Gatwick has apologised to passengers affected by cancellations and diversions yesterday because of short-notice staff absence at its air traffic control tower.
More than 20 flights were cancelled, with others delayed or diverted to airports including Cardiff, Bournemouth and Heathrow.
Flight tracking data showed the first departure cancelled due to ATC issues was an easyJet flight to Berlin, due to take off at 5pm.
The airport apologised for ‘any inconvenience caused’ and urged passengers to contact their airline.
A spokesperson confirmed on Thursday night that 22 flights had been cancelled but said the situation was improving ‘with an additional air traffic controller now in place’.
ATC operator National Air Traffic Services (NATS) blamed ‘a short notice staff absence’ for the issue and apologised ‘very sincerely’ for the inconvenience.
A furious Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary said: “Airlines are paying millions of pounds to NATS each and every year and should not have to see their passengers suffer avoidable delays due to UK ATC staff shortages.
Advantage Travel Partnership CEO Julia Lo Bue-Said said: “The situation at Gatwick is unacceptable. This kind of disruption causes havoc for travellers and has huge financial implications for airlines, travel agents and the entire ecosystem.
“There needs to be an urgent inquiry into why there appears to be staff shortages in this crucial area, and measures implemented to stop these incidents occurring again.”
Gatwick told Travel Gossip this morning: “The tower is fully staffed and the airport is operating as normal today.”