The British airports have been thrown into disarray since Sunday by a glitch in the air traffic control system which has forced the cancellation of thousands of flights — at the height of the summer holiday season when British airports are at their busiest.
The transport minister has scotched speculation that days of holiday at British airports was caused by hackers.
In a TV news interview on Tuesday Morning, Transport Secretary Mark Harper admitted the breakdown of systems was almost unprecedented, but said experts had ruled out a cyberattack as the cause.
“Something on this scale hasn’t happened for almost a decade — normally the system works very well,” Harper said.
Passengers have recounted how they faced huge disruption as air traffic control had to input routes manually, rather than automatically, because of the fault.
Katrina Harrison and her family – including one-year-old twin grandchildren – told the BBC that they spent the night at Leeds-Bradford Airport after their flight to Antalya was cancelled on Monday afternoon.
Ms Harrison, from Stockton-on-Tees, told the PA news agency they were given a bottle of water, a KitKat and a packet of crisps and all the shops sold out of food and drink on Monday night.
“We weren’t given a blanket, we’ve been absolutely freezing,” she said. “There were no hotels to stay in, we couldn’t get the car out of the car park. We haven’t slept, we tried to sleep on the floor but couldn’t.”
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) will now investigate the incident.More than a quarter of flights to and from the UK on Tuesday were already cancelled by mid-morning, including 790 departures and 785 arrivals.
British media reported incidents of fights breaking out between frustrated holidaymakers stranded at Palma airport on the Spanish Balearic island of Mallorca.
London Heathrow, the UK’s biggest and busiest airport, urged passengers to check with their airlines before travelling to the international flight hub.”Schedules continue to be affected by yesterday’s restrictions on UK airspace,” said a spokesperson.
“While the majority of passengers will still be able to travel, there will unfortunately be some disruption on some routes, including flight cancellations. It is important for all passengers to check the status of their flight with their airline before travelling to Heathrow.”
Sources: BBC, news agencies.