25 Jul 2017

UK Airspace Busier Than Ever – Future Flight Delays Likely

Planes at Heathrow T4

On Friday 21st July 2017, the UK’s airspace faced the busiest day ever, with more than 8,800 flights passing through. The spike was partly caused by the large number of British holidaymakers heading abroad at the start of the holiday season.

The BBC reported that a record 770.000 flights will pass through UK airspace this summer, 70,000 more than last year. The UK’s National Air Traffic Service (NATS) has warned that the service is being stretched, and may not be able to deal with such surges in future if traffic increases further. This increases the likelihood of flight delays and cancellations.

Jamie Hutchinson, the director of NATS, told the BBC, “In the last few weeks we have already safely managed record-breaking daily traffic levels, but the ageing design of UK airspace means we will soon reach the limits of what can be managed without delays rising significantly.”

A government consultation could lead to changes on the way existing airspace capacity is used, taking advantage of jets that can fly further and take steeper approaches to airports, while trying to minimise noise pollution. However, these plans are contentious as they may lead to increases in noise pollution in areas that are not currently under flight paths but may become so.

The UK Government has just launched its aviation strategy to 2015, where they say they are “minded to be supportive” of airports that want to make “better use” of existing capacity. Other proposals include doorstep luggage collection and the possibility of town-centre check in desks for passengers flying from the UK.

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