Flights across Western Europe are facing delays and cancellations due to an “outage” and “partial failure” of French air traffic control systems. According to the BBC, the issue stems from a “national computer failure related to the centralization of flight plans.” All of this took place Sunday morning and although things are being fixed, airlines are still recovering.
Chaos over Europe
Although the outage affects French Air Traffic Control, flights all over Europe are affected as many flights go through French airspace. French Air Traffic Control handles those flights even if they aren’t taking off or landing in France.
Speaking to the BBC, Travel expert Simon Calder said the following:
“France is absolutely at the heart of European air traffic control – some 60% of all EasyJet flights to anywhere go over French territory…This appears to be some kind of malfunction which has greatly reduced the flow rate [of flights] so there’s reports of pilots in Lisbon, for example, trying to get to the UK telling passengers we could be five hours late.”
Below is the official tweet from the company that manages Paris‘ airports. It appears that the core situation has been fixed but it’s still having a knock-on effect:
A national computer failure related to the centralization of flight plans took place this morning. This one is now resolved. Delays are still to be expected. Please contact your airline.
— Paris Aéroport (@ParisAeroport) September 1, 2019
Latest: French Air Traffic Control experiencing ‘system problems’ today, delays flights to/from/over France + Spain today. #aviation
Reduced capacity & restrictions on typically busy areas of airspace, including for UK-Spain flights. ⚠️ pic.twitter.com/OfE08m1nDq
— Alex Macheras (@AlexInAir) September 1, 2019
Various airlines posted statements warning of delays. this is what Ryanair had to say:
“We regret to advise customers that there has been a serious French ATC equipment failure early on Sunday morning. Long French ATC slot delays of up to 3 hours are being suffered. If this equipment is not repaired quickly it could lead to long delays and possible ATC cancellations later on Sunday especially to flights operating across France…We apologise sincerely for these ATC delays which we are doing all we can to minimise.”
The complexity of air traffic control
As aircraft fly over a country, a designated authority is responsible for handling all flights passing through. The video above explains in details the importance of air traffic control – particularly in a European context, which is relevant to today’s outage.
It’s been just over a month since an air traffic control issue had a major impact on UK flights – particularly in London. Some flights to and from London Gatwick and other London airports experienced delays and even cancellations. Stranded passengers were reported by the Telegraph to have been handed roll mats to sleep on.
One notable cancellation was the arrival of British Airways’ first A350-1000. The event was to be a major celebration for the carrier. However, a combination of storms across Europe and the ATC chaos in London postponed the event.