Air traffic control delays ‘consistently minimal’ says UK service provider

An air traffic control centre Picture: PA

An air traffic control centre Picture: PA - Credit: PA

UK air traffic controllers have hit back after low-cost carrier Ryanair blamed problems including strike action for the cancellation of more than 1,100 of its flights in June. The airline also cited staffing shortages.

Ryanair chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs said: “Regrettably, over 210,000 Ryanair customers had their flights cancelled in June because of four weekends of ATC (air traffic control) strikes and repeated UK, German and French ATC staff shortages.”

But air traffic control services provider NATS (National Air Traffic Services) said UK air traffic control had not participated in any strike action and its staffing delay was consistently minimal, standing at 0.5% last month.

“NATS handles 25% of European traffic and has an extremely good punctuality record – we are maintaining that record despite a big growth in air traffic,” it said.

“The average NATS-attributable delay per flight in the last calendar year was less than seven seconds.

“Despite record levels of traffic, data published for June 2018 by Eurocontrol, nominated by the European Commission to act as the EU Network Manager, shows NATS’ staffing delay in the UK represented less than 0.5% of total air traffic flow management delay in Europe.

“We are surprised at Ryanair’s criticism of the quality of the UK’s air traffic control service – the categories of delay are set across Europe and all ATC providers are required to report against them.

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“We don’t just make it up. The very high increase in traffic levels, which already this summer have broken all previous records, means there are occasions when total traffic exceeds the airspace capacity and so we have to regulate the amount of traffic using it, to maintain a safe operation.”

NATS said it was embarking on a major programme to modernise airspace in south east England in order to accommodate forecast growth in air traffic and was “committed” to consulting with airline and airport customers to minimise any disruption these changes may cause.