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Dublin: 15 °C Thursday 21 August, 2014

Flights getting back to normal after major air traffic control problem fixed

Passengers at Dublin Airport were among thousands affected by the technical problem.

Image: Tim Ockenden/PA Archive/PA

Updated 19:51

FLIGHTS IN AND out of Britain are getting back to normal this evening following a major air traffic control problem which led to major delays throughout the day.

Passengers at Dublin Airport were among thousands affected by the issue, with the airport repeatedly advising customers to check with their individual airlines for details of delays and cancellations.

Gatwick, Heathrow, Stansted, Cardiff and Glasgow airports were all affected by the issue.

In a statement, the National Air Traffic Control Service (NATS) said a technical problem occurred at its Swanwick centre in Hampshire in the early hours of this morning.

The problem was related to the internal telephone system used by air traffic controllers and NATS said at 12.30pm that it expected to take about six hours to resolve with engineers “working hard” to fix the issue.

This evening NATS confirmed that the problem had been resolved.

It said that more than 80 per cent of flights had operated as usual but that the reduction in capacity had disproportionately affected southern England which it said is an ‘extremely complex and busy airspace’.

It described the problem as “a major challenge for our engineering team and for the manufacturer”.

“To be clear, this is a very complex and sophisticated system with more than a million lines of software,” the statement said. “This is not simply internal telephones, it is the system that controllers use to speak to other ATC [air traffic control] agencies both in the UK and Europe and is the biggest system of its kind in Europe”.

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More than 100 Ryanair flights to and from the south of England were affected with ten cancelled over the course of the day.

At least seven Aer Lingus round trips were cancelled and there have been some delays on other flights. A spokesperson told TheJournal.ie that the majority of cancellations wereon routes with multiple flights a day and customers were being accommodated on the next available flight.

While no flights were cancelled at Shannon Airport, there were a number of delays but a spokesperson said the majority of flights are back on schedule now and passengers are being asked to come to the airport on time.

NATS apologised to everyone affected by the problems.

First published 10:20

Additional reporting by Christine Bohan

Read: Just one air traffic controller to work night shift at Cork Airport from January>

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