New risk of travel misery amid Gatwick air traffic control ‘staff shortages’

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Holidaymakers flying from one of the UK’s biggest airports face more disruption due to air traffic staffing shortages. Anxious workers at Gatwick Airport say the crisis has led to restrictions on the number of flights arriving and departing.

At some point last week, the number of arrivals per hour was reduced from 34 to 22, piling misery on passengers, according to reports. The Mirror. reported that there have been ‘repeated problems’ with air traffic control restrictions at West Sussex Airport.

He claimed an industry expert had suggested the airport, the UK’s second busiest, was suffering an “overnight meltdown” with accumulated delays. The specialist added: “At the end of the day, it may happen that airlines are forced to cancel the last flight of the day, either because the crew is out of working hours or because its airport arrival will be closed at the time it comes to land.

“The airport is placing restrictions on movements per hour, below its stated capacity, due to a shortage of air traffic controllers in the approach control function.”

A spokesman for Gatwick Airport said: “Illness amongst air traffic control staff in the airport’s control tower has been a problem recently but has not caused any delays outside of these isolated incidents.”

In other bad news for UK travel, easyJet pilots have warned the low-cost airline is facing “unprecedented chaos”. A letter reportedly said bosses had ignored warnings from staff about rising demand after chaotic scenes at airports mid-term, with delays and cancellations hitting family holidays.

In the letter, the pilots also warn that the chaos has not reached its peak – calling it a “frightening prospect”. Pilots have raised the issue of the stress caused by the pandemic and the resulting disruption for aircrew, calling for additional support and saying “mental health is at stake”.

Meanwhile, problems are mounting for holidaymakers, with Spain-based Ryanair cabin crew announcing a series of strikes for the end of the month and early July.

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