Thursday, 7 Dec 2023

Flight restrictions cause delays and cancellations at Heathrow

Heathrow disruption: Passengers face delays and cancellations at UK’s busiest airport after flight restrictions imposed due to strong winds and staff shortages

Staff shortages at air traffic control and strong winds have caused flight cancellations and delays at London Heathrow today.

‘Short notice staff absence’ forced The National Air Traffic Services (Nats) to impose flight restrictions for all airlines this morning, which was further compounded by bad weather.

Passengers on board a flight from Lisbon in Portugal were left stuck on the tarmac for three hours before it eventually took off to Heathrow, while others said their plane was circulating the airport for an hour waiting for a gap before they could land. 

British Airways had to make some adjustments to its short-haul flights schedule and has offered those affected a full refund. 

Others trying to make their way to the airport also faced delays with one passenger flying from Gibraltar saying they had been waiting for an hour. 

One flight from Lisbon, Portugal, was sitting on the tarmac for three hours before it could take off to London Heathrow

The National Air Traffic Services imposed flight restrictions due to staff shortages on all airlines at Heathrow  (Picture is stock image)

A spokesperson for Nats said: ‘Due to short notice staff absence in the tower and strong winds at Heathrow, temporary ATC restrictions are currently in place. We expect the situation to improve this afternoon.

‘We are working hard to minimise disruption, working closely with Heathrow airport and airlines. 

‘Passengers should check the status of their flight with their airline. Restrictions of this sort are only ever applied to ensure safety and we apologise for any inconvenience caused.’

Heathrow blamed ‘strong winds’ for the minor changes but made no mention of staff absence at Nats in its statement. 

A spokesperson for the airport said: ‘Strong wind is forecast today, while there may be minor changes to today’s schedule as a result of the weather, we want to reassure passengers that our colleagues are working in close collaboration with our airline and air traffic control partners to get them safely on their journeys as quickly as possible.’

Frustrated passengers took to X, formerly known as Twitter, to vent their fury about how the delays and cancellations had impacted them

British Airways said that it had been forced to make some adjustments to its short-haul schedule as a result of the restrictions.

‘Air traffic control restrictions imposed on all airlines at London Heathrow mean we’ve had to make some adjustments to our short-haul schedule,’ a spokesperson said.

‘We’ve contacted affected customers to apologise and offer them rebooking options or a full refund.’

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