July 13, 2024

Chaos at Gatwick: Thousands Stranded Due to Staff Shortage

Thousands of passengers faced unexpected delays and cancellations at Gatwick Airport after an air-traffic control staff shortage disrupted operations on Friday night.

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Photo Source: Evening Standard

Thousands of airline passengers were left stranded on Friday evening due to an “unavoidable staff shortage” in the air-traffic control tower at London Gatwick airport. This unexpected disruption caused widespread chaos, affecting travel plans for numerous passengers.

EasyJet, the primary airline operating at Gatwick, had to cancel dozens of flights and divert four arrivals to Luton Airport. The air-traffic control provider, Nats, faced criticism from airport officials who are now demanding immediate action to prevent such disruptions in the future.

Gatwick, the UK’s second-largest aviation hub and the busiest single-runway airport in the world, saw more than 50 flights canceled, leaving an estimated 8,000 passengers stranded. The grounded departures included flights to Belfast International, Edinburgh, Malta, Mallorca, and Venice. Additionally, British Airways and Wizz Air also had to cancel flights, while Vueling and Norwegian diverted inbound flights to Stansted.

Nats attributed the disruption to an unavoidable staff shortage, issuing an apology and collaborating with Gatwick and the airlines to manage the situation. A Nats spokesperson expressed regret over the delays and inconveniences caused to airlines and passengers, emphasizing their commitment to minimizing the impact.

A spokesperson for Gatwick airport underscored the need for urgent action, insisting that Nats management ensure adequate resource levels to prevent further disruptions. This incident brings to mind similar issues faced in September 2023, when a significant portion of air-traffic control staff were unavailable due to various medical reasons, including Covid.

Photo Source: diplomatie.gouv.td

EasyJet acknowledged the impact on their operations and assured passengers that every possible measure was being taken to mitigate the disruption, despite it being beyond their control. The airline has been proactive in informing affected passengers of their options and rights.

Under air passengers’ rights regulations, stranded travelers are entitled to accommodations, meals, and onward flights as soon as possible on any airline with available seats. This ensures that passengers are not left without support during such disruptions.

As of Saturday morning, operations at Gatwick began to recover, though some delays of up to two hours persisted. The airport and airlines continue to work diligently to return to normalcy and ensure that passengers reach their intended destinations as soon as possible.

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