Here’s What Experts Had To Say About The UK Air Traffic Control Failure

A major technical glitch recently disrupted the UK’s air traffic control system, causing extensive delays and stranding thousands of travellers.

This event has reignited discussions about the dated technology supporting the nation’s air traffic systems, the absence of reliable backup solutions, and the financial consequences for both airlines and passengers.

Update: What Has Been Happening?

A ‘technical failure’ at the National Air Traffic Services (NATS) severely restricted the number of planes in the UK sky for several hours.

An unnamed airline input a single piece of incorrect data in a flight plan, triggering the failure. The faulty data caused NATS to suspend its backup systems to prevent the presentation of incorrect safety-related information to air traffic controllers.

After fixing the technical glitch, UK airports still issued advisories about ongoing delays. London Gatwick and London Stansted announced intentions to resume normal schedules. Passengers were cautioned to verify the status of their flights before travelling.

Major airlines such as Tui and BA warned of “lengthy delays.” By Monday afternoon, cancellations affected hundreds of flights leaving and arriving at UK airports. Industry body Iata estimates that airlines are losing £100m in revenue as the financial burden of the event escalates.

NATS CEO Martin Rolfe apologised for the recent malfunction and assured the public of the system’s return to normalcy.

The incident prompted calls to revisit both passenger compensation rules and the supporting technology for these vital systems. Currently, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is awaiting a preliminary report from NATS, and the findings will be shared with the public.

What Do Experts Have To Say?


Sune Engsig, the Vice President of Product Development, Leapwork

Sune Engsig emphasises that organisations highly dependent on software systems need scalable solutions for testing and monitoring technology stacks. Here’s what Sune had to say:

“Aviation, like many industries, relies on a patchwork of old and new technologies and software components that have evolved over time. With every update and new technology that comes along, entire processes and workflows need to be re-tested to check things work as they should, and the result is that thinly stretched IT teams have a lot to juggle.”

“While we can’t be sure the exact nature of an outage, more often than not they are caused by human error because quality assurance teams don’t have the right tools available to them to help manage all these tests quickly and efficiently.”

“As we continue to digitise the world around us, industries like aviation – where there are a lot of mission-critical processes – need to take a deeper look at how automation tools can help them stay on top of day-to-day quality assurance so routine updates don’t cause outages, and allow their skilled teams to focus on the most high-value tasks”


Martin Brown, the Chief Commercial Officer, FM Outsource

Martin Brown says passengers are confused and frustrated due to numerous flight cancellations and delays. He offered these insights:

“While many flights are now returning to normal service, the extent of the fallout from this situation remains to be seen and serves as a reminder of the importance of airlines planning ahead. This involves putting an effective long-term support strategy in place for potential emergency situations.”

Suhaib Zaheer, Senior Vice President & General Manager at Cloudways

Suhaib Zaheer speaks about the importance of optimizing online customer experiences. Especially during times of heavy disruption like the recent air traffic control failure in the UK, Suhaib shared:

“To avoid further customer frustration during network failures or unprecedented weather disruptions, it’s essential for airline and travel companies to look at how they can improve their online customer experiences. Investing in robust and scalable hosting infrastructure during website traffic surges is crucial in optimising website performance.”

What Airports Are Saying

UK airports have urged passengers to check their flight status before heading to the airport. London Gatwick and London Stansted plan to run normal schedules, but warn that terminals may be busier than usual. Manchester Airport and Newcastle International Airport also caution that there may be ongoing disruptions due to the earlier technical problem.

What’s Next: Preventing Future Disruptions

The recent glitch in the UK’s air traffic control system has served as a stark reminder of the pressing issues that both the aviation sector and governing bodies must address. While immediate concerns have been resolved, the incident has opened up a dialogue about sustainable solutions for ensuring both the safety and reliability of air travel.

Technological Overhaul:

Industry voices like Sune Engsig and Roman Khavronenko stress the critical need to modernise the outdated technology supporting current air traffic control systems. This could mean a shift towards systems that are not only more modern but also scalable and less prone to failure.’

Regulatory Scrutiny:

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is waiting for a preliminary report from NATS and will share the findings with the public.

Consumer Awareness:

Staying well-informed about their rights and available options during delays or cancellations is essential for travellers. It’s incumbent upon airlines and airports to make this information both accessible and easy to comprehend.

Industry Collaboration:

Airlines, airports, and technology providers need to collaborate more closely to build systems that are both reliable and adaptable.

Crisis Management Plans:

Martin Brown’s insights, for example, indicate that airlines should establish effective long-term plans for dealing with emergencies. This could mean specialised training for staff and the adoption of cutting-edge customer service technology.

Focusing on these key areas helps the aviation sector and governing bodies aim to reduce the risk of future disruptions. This in turn safeguards both the financial stability of airlines and the well-being of passengers.