CAA orders improvements at air traffic controller NATS after complaints by Stansted Airport and Ryanair

PUBLISHED: 11:39 03 August 2017 | UPDATED: 14:45 08 August 2017

NATS, the UK's largest air traffic control provider, has been told to improve its Picture: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

NATS, the UK's largest air traffic control provider, has been told to improve its Picture: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

Stansted Airport and Ryanair have welcomed a ruling which requires a series of improvements at air traffic control organisation NATS.

An aerial view of Stansted Airport.
Picture: MAGAn aerial view of Stansted Airport. Picture: MAG

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has rejected complaints by Stansted and Ryanair, the biggest operator at the airport, that NATS was in breach of its licence and the Transport Act but it is seeking a number of improvements in businesses practices at NERL, the regulated arm of NATS.

It was alleged by Ryanair and Stansted Airport that NERL had failed to provide adequate resources to manage performance in the London Terminal Manoeuvring Area (LTMA) and had discriminated against traffic landing at Stansted.

The CAA investigation into the claims marked the first use of its investigatory powers under Section 34 of the Transport Act 2000.

It has now ruled that no compliance breach has occurred but it has identified a number of areas for improvement, including measures on resilience and contingency planning. The CAA also says it will increase its oversight of NERL to address the resilience issues.

Ryanair aircraft at Stansted Airport .
Picture: Chris Radburn/PA WireRyanair aircraft at Stansted Airport . Picture: Chris Radburn/PA Wire

Richard Moriarty, director of consumers and markets at the CAA, said: “This is the first time that the CAA has used its investigatory powers under the Transport Act 2000 and highlights the potential seriousness of the complaint raised.

“In this instance, our investigation has found no compliance breach; however, improvements to operational resilience are key to ensuring service delivery levels are maintained in our increasingly busy airspace.”

A Stansted Airport spokesman said: “We welcome the thorough investigation and the report’s recommendation that NATS should identify areas to improve performance and operational resilience at London Stansted.

“We look forward to working in partnership with NATS to improve the way flights and airspace are managed in the future.”

Stansted Airport has welcomed a ruling by the CAA requiring air traffic controller NATS to make a number of improvements.
Picture: Mark DavisonStansted Airport has welcomed a ruling by the CAA requiring air traffic controller NATS to make a number of improvements. Picture: Mark Davison

Ryanair also said in a statement that it welcomed the CAA investigation but added that any improvement in the service provided by NATS should not be financed by increased charges.

“Delays in UK airspace caused by NATS more than doubled in 2016 compared to the previous year and the CAA’s investigation has concluded that the delays were due to a lower resilience in NATS services,” Ryanair said.

“The CAA has required NATS to make a number of improvements to its operations, which we hope will prevent delays to Ryanair passengers travelling to or from the UK in the future.

“However, this required level of resilience which NATS failed to provide should not be financed through increased charges to customers given that NATS is already the second highest cost air traffic control service provider in the EU, and posted profits of £126 million last year.”

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