Repatriation flights to take place across the week as travel chaos continues

Airlines are set to offer repatriation flights across the week as airports attempt to clear huge backlogs of cancelled flights caused by a computer glitch.

More than 1,500 flights were cancelled on Monday and 345 on Tuesday due to the air traffic control failure, and thousands of holidaymakers were left stranded abroad.

London airports have warned of ongoing cancellations to flights after the first national air traffic control technical glitch “in almost a decade”, with 64 flights already cancelled on Wednesday morning.

Passengers are urged to check their flight status before arriving at the airport.

EasyJet has announced it will operate five repatriation flights over the coming days, with the first scheduled on Wednesday, as well as operating larger aircraft on key routes.

Tourists at Palma de Mallorca airport (Joan Llado / GTres /
Tourists at Palma de Mallorca airport (Joan Llado / GTres /

The airline said: “During this traditionally very busy week for travel, options for returning to the UK are more limited on some routes and so easyJet will be operating five repatriation flights to London Gatwick over the coming days from Palma and Faro on August 30, and Tenerife and Enfidha on Thursday August 31 and from Rhodes on Friday September 1.

“We are also operating larger aircraft on key routes including Faro, Ibiza, Dalaman and Tenerife to provide some additional 700 seats this week.

“Although this situation was outside of our control, we are sorry for the difficulty this has caused for our customers and remain focused on doing all possible to assist and repatriate them. Customers will be moved onto repatriation flights and notified directly.”

Several late running flights were scheduled to leave from Heathrow Airport on Tuesday night with the airport worst hit from the air traffic control outage.

The airport said on Wednesday: “Due to Monday’s technical issues suffered by UK Air Traffic Control, there continues to be some disruption on some routes, including flight cancellations.

“It is important for all passengers to check the status of their flight with their airline before travelling to the airport and for those passengers who need to rebook to contact their airline directly rather than travelling to Heathrow.”

The move follows a meeting of the National Air Traffic Service (Nats), the Civil Aviation Authority, airlines, airports, trade bodies and Border Force, chaired by Transport Secretary Mark Harper.

Speaking after the summit, Mr Harper warned again that the knock-on effects of Monday’s disruption were likely to continue over the coming days, and said passengers due to travel should check with their airlines before heading to the airport.

Nats chief executive Martin Rolfe said: “Very occasionally technical issues occur that are complex and take longer to resolve. In the event of such an issue our systems are designed to isolate the problem and prioritise continued safe air traffic control.

Tourists at Palma de Mallorca airport (Joan Llado / GTres /
Tourists at Palma de Mallorca airport (Joan Llado / GTres /

“This is what happened [on Monday]. At no point was UK airspace closed but the number of flights was significantly reduced. Initial investigations into the problem show it relates to some of the flight data we received.

“Our systems, both primary and the back-ups, responded by suspending automatic processing to ensure that no incorrect safety-related information could be presented to an air traffic controller or impact the rest of the air traffic system. There are no indications that this was a cyber-attack.

“We have well established procedures, overseen by the CAA, to investigate incidents. We are already working closely with them to provide a preliminary report to the Secretary of State for Transport on Monday. The conclusions of this report will be made public.”

Thousands of passengers were left stranded in the UK and abroad on Monday night after the technical failure across UK airspace, with more than 1,500 departing and arriving flights cancelled, according to aviation analytics company Cirium.

That was equivalent to around 27 per cent of planned flights.

Almost 300 flights had been cancelled by Tuesday morning, including 147 departing the UK and 134 arriving in the UK, Cirium told the Standard.

Mr Harper said an independent review overseen by CAA would be due “in coming days”.