Air traffic control issue causes chaos!

Air travel in the UK is still getting back to normal after more than 200,000 travellers were left in limbo after a glitch affecting The National Air Traffic Service (NATS) flight planning system on Monday.

More than 1,200 flights were cancelled and the problems continued yesterday despite the issue having been fixed after around three hours.

Some of those 200,000 travellers are still in the wrong place after more than 300 flights at the UK’s six busiest airports – Gatwick, Heathrow, Manchester, Stanstead, Luton and Edinburgh – were cancelled yesterday.

The outage meant the worst day’s disruption to UK flying since the 2010 eruption of Icelandic volcano, Eyjafjallajökull, impacted European air travel due to volcanic ash being fired up into, and being carried around, the jet stream.

But thankfully, things are returning to normal and it’s been a busy few days for our Clarity24 and Travel Alerts teams, who continue to liaise with travellers as the air industry continues to clear the backlog of stranded passengers.

Kelly Kershaw, Assistant Manager at Clarity24, said: “It started off as a normal, busy bank holiday Monday for C24. Call volumes were already high and C24 were working hard to service all our business traveller needs with myself leading the shift.

“When the headlines hit about the Air Traffic system failure I immediately called our Travel Alerts team to alert them and so they could play their part.

“With the news out in the public domain, our calls were increasing and the demand for our services was at an all-time high. C24 strived to answer each call and assist the customer as best we could. 

“I quickly realised how severe the situation was, it was not only affecting the UK but worldwide. So I sent out a message to all C24 staff and the relief team asking for immediate assistance. Paul, Angela and Sam kindly gave up their free time to come and join the chaos! 

“During the day, I constantly monitored the situation and updated the team. I was sharing as much information as possible with the team including updates from Sky News, monitoring NATS’ website and airline websites for information on rebooking policies, delays and cancellations. This ensured the team had the most up to date and relevant information to offer our clients. 

Teamwork in a crisis is essential

“The team as a whole, worked extremely hard in assisting all our clients in this challenging situation. We all pulled together, communicating with each other and helping each other. Teamwork is crucial in an event like this. 

“As flight restrictions were in place, and customers were experiencing lengthy delays, clients were calling us to rebook flights, amend hotel stays, check arrival and departure times, cancel flights, process refunds, general reassurance and to seek guidance around missing their connecting flights. 

“All the while we were still assisting other travellers who were not affected by the immediate situation but had other urgent and equally important queries for us to resolve. 

“Even though the system failure was remedied at around 15:30, this was not the end for us. We continued with high call volumes late into the night.”

The Travel Alerts team had been contacted by their Clarity24 colleagues at 12:40 about the issue which was soon confirmed. 

A bulk email was fired out to all clients signed up to receive their Travel Alerts, before social media was updated.

More than 45 individual UK airport reports were run to establish which of our clients were affected – they were then emailed with a brief overview and advice. 

It meant more than 500 individual clients had been contacted by 14:30.

Samantha Crawford, Clarity24’s Operations Manager, said late last night: “It was difficult to know what to expect today with this unprecedented event, but Tuesday evening proved to be a much calmer shift for C24. 

“I had monitored the situation throughout the day so I could adjust staffing levels if required and I did have additional agents ready on standby just in case.

“I started the shift by briefing the team of the latest information and gave an update of the work branches had been doing throughout the day so everyone was on the same page ready to provide that continuation of service.

“It quickly became apparent that the pro-active reporting by Travel Alerts Team has been invaluable in really getting us ahead of the game on this incident. 

“As our passengers have been kept up to date at various stages, it has negated their need to call us as much – which is what the volumes have reflected tonight. 

“Although authorities have been forthright in advising the situation will be ongoing for the next few days while airlines make up for lost time, at the risk of speaking too soon it does appear we are over the worst!


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