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Airport "chaos" leaves islanders stranded abroad


Tuesday 29 August 2023

Airport "chaos" leaves islanders stranded abroad

Tuesday 29 August 2023

Scores of islanders remain stranded abroad as “knock-on” effects from a nationwide air traffic control system failure continue to be felt.

Jersey Airport had previously warned islanders of potential travel pressures over the busy Bank Holiday weekend – but a technical issue on Monday afternoon with National Air Traffic Services limited the number of planes landing, leading to cancellations and significant delays of more than 10 hours.

NATS confirmed the fault just after midday on Monday, before it announced at 15:15 that it had resolved the issue – but airlines and airports have warned that disruption could last for days.

At Jersey Airport yesterday, British Airways flights from London Heathrow and easyJet flights from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Luton and Liverpool were cancelled and never arrived in Jersey Airport, while the return flights from Jersey therefore never departed.

Today, Ports of Jersey confirmed that four flights out of Jersey Airport had been cancelled and a couple of departing planes had been delayed. However, officials said they expected most flights to depart as scheduled.

Ports of Jersey is reminding passengers to arrive in good time and check their airline for the latest flight information before heading to the airport.

Airport Director, Robin MacRae, said: "Yesterday's issue with UK air traffic control is thankfully a very rare event, but we appreciate how disruptive it is for passengers. Thanks to the Ports of Jersey and Swissport teams, we were able to keep the airport open late on Monday evening to allow for an incoming Luton flight to arrive at 11pm and turnaround again with departing passengers."

During the rest of this week, it is expected that many flights departing Jersey Airport will be full and potentially subject to changes as airlines catch up following delays and cancellations caused by the air traffic network issues in the UK on Monday 28 August.

Head of Customer Experience, Sarah-Louise Stubbs, said: "We are preparing for very busy or full flights over the coming days and are working closely with our partners at Jersey Airport to make sure that passengers' experience is as smooth as possible. However, we do expect queues with so many flights likely to be at full capacity while passengers get to their destinations. It is important that passengers allow plenty of time and we thank everybody in advance for their patience."

Meanwhile, local passengers caught out by cancellations and delays remain stuck in the UK and further abroad.

British Airways, in a social media post, said their flights had been "severely disrupted as a result of a major issue experienced by NATS Air Traffic Control."

"While NATS has now resolved the issue, it has created significant and unavoidable delays and cancellations," the post read.

"We're working as hard as possible to get affected customers on their way again and are sorry for the huge inconvenience caused."

An EasyJet spokesperson further said: "While the majority of our flying programme is operating as planned today, the knock-on impact of yesterday's UK ATC systems failure means that some flights this morning were unfortunately unable to operate. We notified customers in advance, providing them with options to transfer their flight for free or receive a refund to help them rearrange their plans.

"While this is outside of our control, we apologise for the difficulty this has caused for our customers and we remain focused on doing all possible to assist and repatriate them as soon as possible at this very busy time of year.

"We recommend that all passengers continue to check their flight status on our Flight Tracker www.easyjet.com/en/flight-tracker for real time information before travelling to the airport."

Bailiwick Express and JEP reporter James Jeune, who was due to fly back from Valencia on Monday afternoon, said he was met with a scene of "chaos" at the airport.

"I don't think anyone really knew how to handle it, because they boarded us and then said that UK air traffic had gone down, but that they would keep us on the plane in the hope that once it was fixed we could get going pretty quickly," he explained.

However, the passengers were soon informed that the flight was cancelled and they disembarked the plane after three hours of waiting.

He said he's had to spend "hundreds of pounds rebooking flights home", which he hopes to claim back from the airline, but at the moment he is still in Valencia.

Rob and Erin Turner were yesterday meant to fly with easyJet from Edinburgh, but, after hours spent at the gate, discovered it was cancelled, with no further information provided by the airline.


Pictured: Rob and Erin Turner had spent the weekend at a friend's wedding.

With almost no available flights from Scotland or North England until Thursday, the couple now hope to fly Blue Islands from Birmingham on Wednesday – "but we are being warned that the knock-on effects to flights could carry on for days and there is no guarantee we get home tomorrow either," Rob said.

They added that the costs are "racking up and there are questions over whether the airlines will pay out refunds for the issues resulting from the air traffic control technical issue and also whether our travel insurance will cover us for hundreds of pounds worth of hotels, trains and taxis."

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