Ryanair says ‘discrimination against Stansted’ is to blame for flight delays there

Ryanair jet taking off from Stansted Airport. Picture: Chris Radburn/PA Wire

Ryanair jet taking off from Stansted Airport. Picture: Chris Radburn/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Stansted Airport is embroiled in a dispute over flight delays caused by air traffic control.

Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary. Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary. Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Yesterday, Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary lashed out over what his airline regards as “discrimination” by National Air Traffic Services (NATS) against Stansted.

He said he wanted the commission to force NATS to explain why more resources appeared to be being allocated to airports other than Stansted, and why Stansted appeared to be suffering disproportionately from delays.

Mr O’Leary also revealed that he had submitted a complaint to the European Commission over the matter.

Last month, passengers reported delays of up to two and a half hours for flights from Stansted.

In a statement, Ryanair stated that NATS refuses to explain why 52% of all London Air Traffic Control delays in the first three months of 2018 were at Stansted.

There were no such delays at Heathrow, and just 10% at Gatwick where (NATS’ shareholders) BA and Easyjet are the main airlines.

Ryanair is calling on the UK Government and the EU to take “prompt action” against NATS, which continues to deliver what they describe as “an atrocious service” to airlines - “despite having amongst the highest ATC fees in the EU.” “They are blatantly protecting Heathrow at the expense of all other London airports, especially Stansted,” the statement from Ryanair continued. “We expect the EU to act quickly to ensure a fairer allocation of NATS resources (and delays) to all five London airports, instead of protecting Heathrow.”

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However, NATS denies discriminating against any airport or airline.

A spokesperson for London Stansted said that the CAA’s Oberon report (which revealed that the majority of NATS-related delays at UK airports were at Stansted), highlights a number of issues that merit further investigation, particularly the evidence that suggests that Stansted experienced a disproportionate share of air traffic control related delays in the London area.

“We are seeking answers from NATS on the root cause for these delays, and considering the need for further action.”

The spokesperson added: “Good on-time flight performance is a key priority for London Stansted and our customers, and we work closely with others in the industry to deliver the best possible service. NATS has an important role to play in ensuring a level playing field between competing airports in how it manages airspace.”

Mr O’Leary also raised his concerns at the “increasing risk” of a hard Brexit, which he claims could lead to flights being grounded. “While we hope that a 21-month transition agreement from March 2019 will be agreed, recent events in the UK have added uncertainty, and we beleve that the risk of a hard Brexit, which could lead to flights being grounded for a period of days or weeks, is being underestimated.”

Mr O’Leary was speaking as Ryanair announced 23 new routes, including ones connecting London Stansted to Lviv and Kiev in Ukraine.

More than half of Ryanair’s new routes are from fast-growing Southend Airport, and will connect with locations including Alicante, Brest, Milan and Copenhagen.

In the next five years, London Stansted is aiming to secure direct services to at least 25 new long-haul destinations around the world, including the Far East, India, North America and the Middle East.