London’s Gatwick Airport is facing more flight disruption this week - but this time, it’s not down to strikes.
Air traffic controllers at the UK’s second biggest airport have been hit with COVID-19, forcing the busy transport hub to restrict flights.
Until Sunday, a daily cap of 800 flights taking off or landing has been imposed at Gatwick to maintain safety. 164 flights will be cancelled due to the outbreak.
The airport says it hopes the caps will help it avoid making last-minute cancellations.
Around a third of ATC staff have been hit by illness, including COVID, according to NATS.
On Monday, 50 flights - mostly with easyJet - to and from Gatwick were diverted or cancelled.
Some passengers faced hours-long delays, while an estimated 8,000 people were left out of position.
The daily limit on flights is in place until 1 October. Friday is set to be the day worst hit by the caps, with 65 fewer flights than planned. British Airways, easyJet and RyanAir will all have to cancel some flights.
“This has been a difficult decision but the action we have taken means our airlines can fly reliable flight programmes, which gives passengers more certainty that they will not face last-minute cancellations,” Gatwick CEO Stewart Wingate said of the caps.
“We are working closely with NATS to build resilience in the control tower, and this decision means we can prevent as many disruptions as possible,” he added.
Gatwick advises passengers to check the status of their flights with their airline before travelling.
Air traffic control service NATS has reassured passengers that its “operational resilience in the tower will improve as our staff return to work and we move out of the summer schedule, which is particularly busy at Gatwick.”
The company says it is continuing to train additional air traffic controllers and expects another group to qualify to work in the tower over the coming months.
“We will continue to recruit and train air traffic controllers at Gatwick as fast as possible to ensure we return to a fully resilient operation as soon as we can,” it added in a statement.