Gatwick Airport Cancels Over 160 Flights Due to Controller Shortage Amid Pandemic
London's Gatwick Airport cancels numerous flights as staffing shortages, exacerbated by the Covid pandemic, force restrictions until October 1st.
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In a statement issued on Monday, London's Gatwick Airport announced the cancellation of more than 160 flights until Sunday, October 1st, citing a severe shortage of air traffic controllers, partially stemming from the ongoing Covid pandemic. Gatwick Airport revealed that daily flight limits, capped at 800 until Sunday, had been mutually agreed upon with NATS, the United Kingdom's air traffic control service.
This limitation, according to the statement, aims to mitigate last-minute cancellations and delays for passengers, while NATS grapples with staffing constraints and illness-related challenges. Approximately 30 percent of controllers are currently unavailable for various medical reasons, including Covid-related issues.
Stewart Wingate, director of London Gatwick, acknowledged the difficulty of the decision to cancel flights but emphasized that it would enable airlines to maintain reliable flight schedules, providing passengers with greater certainty and reducing the likelihood of unexpected cancellations. Despite repeated assurances from NATS following the imposition of temporary air traffic control restrictions earlier in the month, the situation had not shown signs of improvement.
A spokesperson from NATS, speaking to The Guardian, explained the decision, saying, "Given the levels of sickness we have experienced over the last few weeks, we believe it is the responsible thing to do to limit the number of flights this week in order to reduce the risk of daily disruption to passengers using the airport." The spokesperson also highlighted that while the air traffic control service is actively training and recruiting, it takes at least nine months for experienced air traffic controllers to qualify at Gatwick.
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