- 52pc of ATC delays are at Stansted
- Heathrow had 0pc and Gatwick 10pc
Ryanair released data published by the London CAA which, it says, confirms that Ryanair and Stansted Airport (25.9m passengers a year) are being discriminated against by NATS, the English airline owned ATC provider, while Heathrow (78m passengers) and Gatwick (45.6m) are given special treatment.
Stansted had 189,919 aircraft movements in 2017, Gatwick 285,912 and Heathrow 475,783. Ryanair claim that Stansted Airport suffered 52pc of all ATC delays in the London area from Jan-Mar 2018 caused by NATS, while Heathrow (which has 3 times the traffic) had 0pc of NATS delays and Gatwick just 10pc. The failure of NATS to fairly supply ATC staffing and airspace resources at Stansted Airport has wreaked havoc this summer on both Ryanair and Stansted flight schedules, with 2018 shaping up to be the worst year on record for ATC disruptions at Stansted. The CAA Oberon report confirmed that Stansted suffered 15,268 (52pc) delay minutes of NATS attributable ATC delays in Q1, while Heathrow suffered none, zero, nada. Like all other EU airlines, Ryanair has been forced to cancel hundreds of flights as a result of UK ATC staffing shortages and management failures. However, Ryanair and Stansted have been discriminated against by NATS who refuse to explain why 52pc of all London ATC delays are at Stansted but there are zero at Heathrow and just 10pc at Gatwick where (NATS’ shareholders) BA and EasyJet are the main airlines.
NATS responded: Ryanair’s latest complaint, about punctuality in the first three months of this year, relates to the ExCDS transition – bringing our service into the digital age – which, in January, specifically affected the airspace around Stansted and Luton. It was the second of five planned transitions over seven months which started in November last year and were completed in July. First to transition last November was the northern part of the London Terminal Manoeuvring Area; Luton/Stansted in January; Heathrow/Gatwick and the south in April; London City and Thames in May and Midlands/Capital in June. Each had a three week envelope around it where we worked really closely with the airlines and airports to understand and mitigate the impact on their operations. For each transition we offered tactical re-route scenarios to help avoid the worst of the delays. Most airlines took up the opportunity – and I’d like to thank them for their great engagement in the transition. Those that didn’t suffered comparatively poorer on-time performance as a result, and then complained after the event. Of course we have occasional staffing problems. [Detailed account of a combination of circumstances of an unreplaced absent Controller who was due to safely provide a radar service for aircraft arriving at Stansted overnight, a contingency plan involving temporary stop on services, and a small number of services, including two Ryanair flights, delayed on their way to the UK meaning they could not achieve their original arrival time]. The broader point is that the airspace in the south east, especially over Essex where we have very busy East/West routes, is at full capacity. That’ is why we now need urgently to modernise England’s airspace which hasn’t been restructured since the 1950s. A major programme, fully supported by the Government, is now under way. The immediate priority is SE England, which is incredibly congested airspace where we have five major airports in close geographic proximity. Even as a priority, it will take some years to make sure we have a safe design, which reflects the airports’ growth plans, and to make sure the general public, particularly those overflown, are properly consulted. It will be 2025 at the earliest before we can implement change.
A spokesman for Manchester Airports Group, which owns Stansted, said: “We are seeking answers from Nats on the root cause for these delays and considering the need for further action, including the possibility of making a formal complaint to the CAA in due course.”
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