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Airlines count cost of UK traffic control failure


By AFP and published by CNA

London – The worst disruption to UK air traffic control in almost a decade following a technical fault risks costing carriers around £100 million (around 4.45 billion baht), the head of global airline body IATA estimated today (Aug. 30).

Passengers continued to be affected by cancelled flights owing to Monday’s incident, but far more planes were able to fly.

“I would imagine that at an industry-level, we’ll be getting close to £100 million of additional costs that airlines have encountered as a result of this failure,” Willie Walsh, director-general of the International Air Transport Association, told the BBC.

“It’s very unfair because the air traffic control system which was at the heart of this failure doesn’t pay a single penny,” added the former chief executive of the International Airlines Group, whose main airline is British Airways.

Costs included finding new flights for stranded passengers and providing overnight accommodation.

Walsh expressed doubt over the reason provided by the UK body, the National Air Traffic Services, for the breakdown.

“I find it staggering, I really do. This system should be designed to reject data that’s incorrect, not to collapse the system,” he said.

“If that is true, it demonstrates a considerable weakness that must have been there for some time and I’m amazed if that is the cause of this.”

Britain’s government has ordered a review into the incident, which it claimed was not linked to cybersecurity.

NATS chief executive Martin Rolfe said an “unusual piece of data” had caused the widespread flight disruption.

While more than one quarter of flights arriving and departing the UK were cancelled on Monday, only about one percent were unable to take off on Wednesday, according to aviation analytics firm Cirium.

It comes as the global sector sees a strong recovery from the Covid shutdown.


Top: Rory Dollard’s family were stuck in France after their flight was cancelled. Photo: PA Media and published by BBC

Insert: People have been sleeping on airport floors as they await flight information. Photo: Steph Wagstaff and published by BBC

Front Page: Passengers continued to be affected by cancelled flights owing to Monday’s incident, but far more planes were able to fly. File photo: AFP/Daniel Leal and published by CNA

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