Ryanair accuses UK air traffic controllers of ‘discrimination’ against Stansted Airport

PUBLISHED: 16:43 03 September 2018 | UPDATED: 16:53 03 September 2018

Ryanair jet taking off from Stansted

Ryanair jet taking off from Stansted

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Ryanair has submitted a formal complaint to the European Commission after new figures reveal Stansted Airport suffered more than half of all air traffic control delays in the first quarter of this year.

The data published by the UK Civil Aviation Authority shows that Stansted Airport suffered 52 per cent of all air traffic control delays in the London area from January to March this year caused by NATS, the UK’s airline-owned air traffic control provider.

In contrast, Heathrow Airport, which has three times the traffic, had 0 per cent of NATS delays and Gatwick just 10 per cent.

The chief operating officer at Ryanair, Peter Bellew, says they are “clearly being discriminated against” and has now called for urgent action to be taken by the Department for Transport to stop the disruption.

Air traffic control staff shortages at Stansted Airport have wreaked havoc this summer on both Ryanair and London Stansted flight schedules.

“Ryanair and Stansted are clearly being discriminated against by the UK airline owned ATC provider NATS,” Mr Bellew said. “That Stansted has had 52 per cent of all NATS delays in quarter one while Heathrow has 0 per cent (and Gatwick just 10 per cent) is unjustifiable.

“These disruptions are unfair and unacceptable, and we call on the UK Dept for Transport and the EU Commission to take urgent action to ensure that the UK ATC provider (NATS) is fully staffed and treats each London airport fairly.

“NATS don’t have enough staff. Ryanair is today submitting a formal complaint to the European Commission and the UK CAA over this blatant discrimination against Stansted Airport and Ryanair.

“The situation is particularly bad at weekends where NATS are hiding behind adverse weather and euphemisms such as “capacity restrictions” when the truth is they are not rostering enough ATC staff to cater for the number of flights that are scheduled to operate. Urgent action must now be taken by the UK Dept of Transport, and the EU Commission, otherwise thousands more flights and millions of passengers at Stansted will continue to suffer disproportionate delays, while NATS protects its shareholder airlines’ services in Heathrow and Gatwick.”

A spokesman for Stansted Airport said: “Good on-time flight performance is a key priority for London Stansted and our customers, and we work closely with others in the industry to deliver the best possible service. NATS has an important role to play in ensuring a level playing field between competing airports in how it manages airspace.

“The CAA’s Oberon report highlights a number of issues that merit further investigation, particularly the evidence that suggests that Stansted experienced a disproportionate share of ATC delays in the London area.

“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.”

A spokesman for NATS told The Telegraph: “Ryanair performance this summer cannot be blamed on UK air traffic control.

“The figures Ryanair quote from earlier this year coincide with the introduction of new technology that affected the number of flights in and out of Stansted during that period.

“Luton Airport was similarly affected at that time and other airports were affected at other times over a six month period. All airlines and airports were notified of the timetable in advance and understood the new technology will help us increase capacity safely in the future.

“NATS has a duty to ensure commercial aircraft can fly safely through UK airspace. Adding extra controllers to the Essex airspace will not make a difference.

“Additional aircraft cannot fly in that area safely without redesigning the airspace which requires consultation with those affected on the ground.”

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