Flights delayed at Gatwick airport due to air traffic control staff shortages

Passengers are facing hours of delays at Gatwick airport after several flights were grounded this morning.

Ryanair apologised to passengers for delays of up to two hours at Gatwick airport, before blaming National Air Traffic Services (NATS) staff shortages for the disruption.

A spokesperson for the company also called for NATS chief executive Martin Rolfe to “quit or be dismissed”.

In a statement on X, the Ryanair spokesperson said: “It is unacceptable that passengers continue to face disruption due to the mismanagement of NATS by Martin Wolfe.

“Only three months ago, their system failure caused long delays, diversions and cancellations and now passengers are facing over two hour delays this morning (Dec 14) due to NATS staff shortages.

“These repeated UK NATS system failures are unique to the UK and are not repeated in any other European ATC service. Our passengers want a competent UK ATCH service and Martin Rolfe has repeatedly shown he can’t deliver it. He should go and let someone competent run UK ATC.”

Other airlines affected by flight delays this morning include British Airways, WizzAir, EasyJet, Iberia Airlines, Vueling, TUI, TunisAir, Lufthansa and Sky Express — none of which have commented on this latest batch of delays.

Destinations affected include outgoing flights to Dublin, Porto, Venice, Malaga, Barcelona, Glasgow, Amsterdam, Alicante, Athens, Malaga, Montego Bay, Marrakech, Milan, Tunis, Hurghada and Frankfurt.

This follows delays at Gatwick Airport over the weekend after an air traffic control outage grounded dozens of flights.

No planes were allowed to depart while the airport attempted to reset the system, while other aircraft were sent back to their stands.

At the time, a spokesperson for the airport said: “There was an outage to a local NATS system earlier this morning, which has now been rectified.

“No cancellations have resulted from this, but some passengers may experience delays. We apologise for any inconvenience.”

A NATS spokesperson said: “For a short period on Saturday morning we had a technical issue at Gatwick that was quickly fixed.  To make sure safety was maintained, departures were paused temporarily before resuming around 8am.

“We worked with airlines to minimise delays and would like to apologise to those passengers whose journeys were affected.”

NATS and Gatwick airport have been contacted for comment.