UK airspace chaos explained: How a 'huge network failure' has sparked delays for thousands travellers – so could a CYBERATTACK be to blame?

Britain’s air traffic control systems were hit by a debilitating network failure today — sparking flight cancellations and lengthy delays for thousands of holidaymakers.   

Amid several hours of chaos and confusion, NATS – the national air traffic controllers – stressed that UK airspace had not closed but that traffic restrictions had been brought in to ‘maintain safety’.

This meant fewer planes were able to take off and land at UK airports, leading to disruption which experts say could last for several days because of the backlog.

NATS later issued a statement at 15:15 BST to confirm that engineers had ‘identified and remedied the technical issue’.

The cause of the problem is yet to be revealed but social media has been rife with claims that a cyber attack might be to blame.

Britain's air traffic control systems were hit by a 'huge network failure' today — prompting confusion, chaos and huge delays for thousands of holidaymakers. Pictured: Passengers on a UK-bound plane from Malaga that was left stranded on the runway today

Britain’s air traffic control systems were hit by a ‘huge network failure’ today — prompting confusion, chaos and huge delays for thousands of holidaymakers. Pictured: Passengers on a UK-bound plane from Malaga that was left stranded on the runway today 

The majority (78 per cent) of flights leaving Heathrow are still delayed, according to flight tracking sites, compared to 74 per cent at Gatwick, 81 per cent at Manchester and 86 per cent at Bristol

The majority (78 per cent) of flights leaving Heathrow are still delayed, according to flight tracking sites, compared to 74 per cent at Gatwick, 81 per cent at Manchester and 86 per cent at Bristol 

It comes just months after all flights across America were grounded for the first time since 9/11, when an unexplained computer system failure prompted fears that hackers had targeted the network.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) later revealed that a corrupted database file was instead to blame for the outage.

Has UK airspace been hit by a cyber attack?

Travel journalist Simon Calder addressed speculation that the UK’s airspace issues could be down to ‘some kind of hack’ by saying: ‘I’ve got absolutely no evidence of that.’ 

He added that planes were being brought into land slowly, but that the ‘flow rate’ – at which aircraft can land – had been significantly reduced.

Mr Calder told BBC Radio 5 Live that problems like this are ‘extremely rare’ and usually occur every five to 10 years.

‘It may just simply be one of those system failures that we’ve seen in other parts of aviation — people will, of course, be reminded of the British Airways IT failures,’ he added.

What does the issue mean for air traffic controllers? 

NATS revealed in an earlier statement that the technical issue had affected the organisation’s ability to automatically process flight plans.

These give air traffic controllers information about where an aircraft is flying from and at what time, as well as where it is going and the route it will take. 

Today is one of the busiest days for air travel of the year, making the 'huge network failure' all the more disruptive. This is a map showing flights currently in the air across Europe

Today is one of the busiest days for air travel of the year, making the ‘huge network failure’ all the more disruptive. This is a map showing flights currently in the air across Europe 

Queues started to build up at Manchester Airport after the UK's air traffic control system suffered a major outage

Queues started to build up at Manchester Airport after the UK’s air traffic control system suffered a major outage 

‘Until our engineers have resolved this, flight plans are being input manually which means we cannot process them at the same volume, hence we have applied traffic flow restrictions,’ a spokesperson said.

‘Our technical experts are looking at all possible solutions to rectify this as quickly as possible.’

Former pilot Alastair Rosenschein told BBC Radio 5 Live that what is happening in UK air space is equivalent to what it would be like on the ground ‘if every road was closed’. 

What delays are there and how long will they last?

A number of UK airports have warned passengers to expect delays and cancellations, along with airlines such as EasyJet, Ryanair and Virgin.

HOW MANY FLIGHTS HAVE BEEN CANCELLED?

As of 14:30 BST, a total of 232 flights departing UK airports have so far been cancelled – equivalent to 8 per cent of all departures – according to aviation analytics company Cirium.

A further 271 flights arriving at UK airports have also been axed, which equates to 9 per cent of all arrivals.

As of 14:30 BST, a total of 232 flights departing UK airports had been cancelled – equivalent to 8 per cent of all departures – according to aviation analytics company Cirium.

A further 271 flights arriving at UK airports have also been axed, which equates to 9 per cent of all arrivals.

The majority (78 per cent) of flights leaving Heathrow are currently delayed, according to flight tracking sites, compared to 74 per cent at Gatwick, 81 per cent at Manchester and 86 per cent at Bristol. 

Only a few planes have been able to take off from Heathrow – the UK’s busiest airport – since 11:30 BST.

A Heathrow Airport spokesperson said: ‘As a result of national airspace issues there is disruption to flights across the UK. 

‘Passengers are advised to check with their airline for the latest information. 

‘We are working closely with NATS and other airport partners to minimise the impact this has on passengers.’

British Airways told passengers that its flights were subject to delays. 

‘We are working closely with Nats to understand the impact of a technical issue that is affecting UK airspace, and will keep our customers up to date with the latest information,’ a spokesperson added.

Passengers are pictured queueing at Heathrow this afternoon. They have been advised to turn up for their flights unless they hear otherwise

Passengers are pictured queueing at Heathrow this afternoon. They have been advised to turn up for their flights unless they hear otherwise 

TV presenter Gabby Logan said she has been left stranded on the runway at Budapest Airport

TV presenter Gabby Logan said she has been left stranded on the runway at Budapest Airport 

TV presenter Gabby Logan said she has been left stranded on the runway at Budapest Airport while returning from the World Athletics Championships. 

She wrote: ‘After almost 3 weeks away from home I am hours from hugging my family. And have just been told UK airspace is shut. We could be here for 12 hours. 

‘So we sit on the plane and wait.’

What are the experts saying?

Former air traffic controller Michele Robson told BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme: ‘There was a flight planning system failure this morning which affected both centres in the UK.’

Speaking from Jersey Airport while waiting to fly to London, she said: ‘Now they have enough data for four hours for controllers to work normally. After that point, they have to go manual which means that they work at a much slower rate so they can handle far less aircraft.

‘So it looks like there’s been what they would call a zero rate put on, where it means that no aircraft can take off inbound to the UK or probably outbound. It would generally be them trying to land things that were already in the air.

‘So at the moment, we’re just sitting here with no definite takeoff time.’

Mr Calder said the shutdown would not cause safety issues because the system was ‘designed to cope’ with a shutdown and aircraft carried contingency fuel. 

But he added: ‘This is of course one of the busiest days of the year. There are hundreds of thousands of people flying into the UK, frankly this is the last thing anyone needs.

‘It will at the very least have caused enough disruption for the system to be in disarray for certainly until the end of the day and possibly for a few further days ahead.’

UK airspace system failure: What are your rights and can you claim compensation back? 

By Jessica Hamilton

UK airspace has been hit by a network-wide failure for air traffic control systems on one of the busiest travel days of the year. 

The system failure is expected to cause disruption for the rest of the day, as the UK will see flights delayed and cancelled, with the mayhem spreading around Europe.  

As the chaos continues, many will be wondering if they can claim compensation. But what are your rights? Read on to find out.

Can I claim compensation? 

If you’re flight is delayed, your airline should offer you support and, according to Citizens Advice, you may be able to claim compensation if your flight was:

  • Leaving from the UK (regardless of the airline) 
  • Leaving from the EU, Iceland, Norway or Switzerland (regardless of the airline)
  • Arriving in the UK and was with a UK or EU airline 
  • Arriving in the EU and was with a UK airline 

If you’re on a non-UK flight which connects to a UK flight, you can usually receive compensation if you booked both flights as a single booking, if the delay was the airline’s fault and if you’re delayed for more than 12 hours.  

If your flight is delayed, your airline has to offer food and drink, access to phone calls and emails and accommodation if you’re delayed overnight, as well as journeys between the airport and hotel. 

However, you’re unlikely to get compensation if the delay was because of something outside the airline’s control.

According to EU Regulation EC 261/2004, disruptions caused by things like extreme weather, airport or air traffic control employee strikes or other ‘extraordinary circumstances’ are not eligible for compensation.

How much could I be entitled to? 

In cases where the airline is at fault for a delay, passengers could receive the following compensation. 

  • 3 hours or more, less than 1,500km: £220
  • 3 hours or more, between 1,500 and 3,500km: £350
  • 4 hours or more, more than 3500km: £520
  • Less than 4 hours, more than 3,500km £260 

If your flight is delayed for 5 hours or more you can claim £520 in compensation if the delay is the airline’s fault and you take flight. 

If you don’t take the flight and the airline is at fault, they should give you a full refund for the flight and any other flights from the same airline that you won’t use. 

If you are part-way through your journey, they should fund a flight back to the airport you originally departed from. 

Alternatively, if your flight is cancelled you may be entitled to a full refund or a replacement flight. 

How can I claim? 

To claim compensation, you will have to go through the relevant airline directly. 

Most airlines will have a customer services department which will deal with urgent matters, such as flight delays. 

In cases where the delay is not the airline’s fault, the Civil Aviation Authority says ‘don’t expect to receive any compensation.’

However, you may be able to make a claim on your travel insurance, as some insurance policies may offer limited cover for delays, according to the Money Saving Expert website. 

But be sure to gather evidence of the costs you’ve incurred, such as hotels or alternative transport.  

If you need further help, you can contact the Civil Aviation Authority and Citizens Advice for assistance.  

 

 

source: dailymail.co.uk