Britain’s National Air Traffic Service (NATS) had to restrict the flow of aircraft on Monday due to a technical issue, it said, with passengers stuck in planes on the tarmac and airlines and airports warning of delays and cancellations across Europe.
“We are currently experiencing a technical issue and have applied traffic flow restrictions to maintain safety. Engineers are working to find and fix the fault,” NATS said in a statement, adding that UK airspace was not closed.
Irish air traffic control provider AirNav Ireland said the issue, which has struck during a public holiday in parts of Britain, was resulting in “significant delays for flights across Europe that are travelling to, from or through UK airspace”.
A spokesperson for London Heathrow, the busiest hub in western Europe, said the airport was working with NATS and other airport partners to minimise the impact on passengers, while Gatwick, south of London, said cancellations were likely.
Earlier Scottish airline Loganair said on social media site X, previously known as Twitter, that there had been a network-wide failure of UK air traffic control computer systems.
British Airways said it was working closely with NATS to understand the impact, while other airlines including Ryanair said some flights to and from the UK on Monday would be delayed or cancelled.
Manchester Airport and London Stansted warned of potential disruption to flights, while others including London Luton and Birmingham said they were working to understand the impact and the timescale in which normal operations could resume.
Dublin Airport said the air traffic control issues were resulting in delays and cancellations to some flights into and out of the Irish capital and advised passengers due to travel today to check the status of their flight with their airline.
Many passengers took to social media to say they were stuck on planes on the tarmac waiting to take off, or being held in airport buildings, in Spain, Portugal, Greece, Israel and elsewhere on what is a traditionally busy travel day as the school holidays draw to a close.
One Reuters witness being held on the tarmac at Budapest said their pilot told passengers that they faced an 8-12 hour delay.