CAA to lead inquiry into Nats computer crash

CAA to lead inquiry into Nats computer crashAn independent inquiry will be established into Friday’s air traffic control computer glitch which prompted chaos across UK airports.

The announcement from the Civil Aviation Authority came as it was confirmed that up to 10,000 passengers at Heathrow alone were affected.

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said the failure was “unacceptable” but defended the National Air Traffic Services.

He told MPs he welcomed an inquiry by the CAA into the incident saying he hoped the findings would be available by March 2015.

Answering questions from the House of Commons transport committee, McLoughlin defended the overall performance of Nats, saying it was doing “an incredibly good job”.

“The average delay this year in Nats is 2.5 seconds per flight, whereas the rest of Europe we’re taking about 30 seconds,” he said.

He also compared the disruption to a telephone failure at the Swanwick air traffic centre in December 2013, which also caused flight disruption.

That incident caused 126,000 minutes of delays, compared to Friday’s 16,000 minutes, McLoughlin said.

The CAA is to appoint an independent chair to lead the inquiry, which will take evidence from experts on information technology and air traffic control.

However, transport committee chairman Louise Ellman questioned McLoughlin about the inquiry – which could involve CAA and Nats staff – saying it “did not look very independent,” the BBC reported.

The inquiry would be dealing with a very specialised and technical area, McLoughlin said. He said there was a limited number of people who could carry it out.

“We want to find out what went wrong and make sure it doesn’t happen again,” he added.

The regulator said: “The CAA will, in consultation with Nats, appoint an independent chair of the panel which will consist of Nats technical experts, a board member from the CAA and independent experts on information technology, air traffic management and operational resilience.”

It said the full terms of reference will be published following consultation with “interested parties including airlines and consumer groups”.

Nats chief executive Richard Deakin said the problem involved a computer code written a quarter of a century ago.

Deakin rejected criticism from business secretary Vince Cable, who accused the company of “skimping on large-scale investment” and being “penny wise and pound foolish”.

The company says it will be spending £575 million over the next five years on systems.

Sourced from Travel Weekly


‘Ancient’ computer system blamed for Nats failure

An ‘ancient’ computer system has been blamed for the UK air traffic control failure that caused chaos at London airports on Friday.

The incident was just the latest in a string of computer problems that have plagued Nats in recent years at its headquarters in Swanwick, Hampshire.

Business secretary Vince Cable claimed Nats was running “ancient computer systems, which then crash”.

“We have to maintain a high level of capital investment,” he added.

Nats said it would be spending £575 million over the next five years on systems.

But Cable told BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show that Nats, under financial pressure, had decided to “forego capital investment” for many years.

He said: “We have to maintain a high level of capital investment.”

Deakin said that the software problem was “buried” among millions of lines of computer code.

“The challenge is that we have around 50 different systems at Swanwick and around four million lines of code. This particular glitch was buried in one of those four million lines of code,” he told the BBC.

“We haven’t seen that particular issue before,” he added.

Sourced from Travel Weekly


No compensation for passengers caught in Nats failure

Thousands of passengers whose flights were grounded after Friday’s computer glitch are not entitled to compensation.

Carriers had a duty to look after passengers while they were in the terminal but would not have to make a financial payment because “it’s something the airlines can’t do anything about”, a Civil Aviation Authority spokesman told The Times.

More than 80 flights were cancelled and dozens of others hit by heavy delays after a system failure at Britain’s main air traffic control centre shut down air space for 36 minutes over London on Friday afternoon.

At least 10,000 passengers were affected with a backlog stretching into the weekend. The glitch caused delays at Heathrow and Gatwick, while other UK airports reported knock-on effects.

Dozens of arrivals and departures at airports across southern England, and as far north as Aberdeen and Edinburgh, were delayed and cancelled.

Passengers complained that they were left in the dark about what was happening despite calls for airports and airlines to implement better contingency plans after previous disruptions.

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin is expected to appear before MPs today, as will Richard Deakin, chief executive of air traffic control company  Nats.

His remuneration, approximately £1 million, could be reduced because of the problems, a Nats spokeswoman said.

Airlines offered overnight accommodation for some passengers and to rebook or refund cancelled flights.

However, officials said they would not reimburse passengers who were left out of pocket because the incident was beyond the airlines’ control.

Under European regulations, passengers are entitled to receive up to €600 if their flight is cancelled, unless there are “extraordinary circumstances”.

A ruling by the Court of Appeal in June narrowed the range of circumstances that the carriers can claim as extraordinary, but it did not go so far as to include Friday’s air traffic control meltdown, experts said.

Nats also said it was not liable for reimbursing passengers even though it was a glitch in its software that caused the disruption.

Labour chairwoman of the Commons’ transport select committee, Louise Ellman, said MPs would investigate whether travellers should receive financial compensation if a similar situation occurred in future.

The committee will also demand an explanation for why so many passengers were left without adequate information about their flights, their options for booking new flights or their rights to compensation, she added.

Officials at the Department for Transport declined to comment about passenger compensation.

However, McLoughlin said: “Any disruption to our aviation system is a matter of the utmost concern, especially at this time of year in the run up to the holiday season.

“Disruption on this scale is simply unacceptable and I have asked Nats for a full explanation. I also want to know what steps will be taken to prevent this happening again.”

Sourced from Travel Weekly


Jet2 and Thomson compensation appeals turned down by Supreme Court

Jet2 and Thomson compensation appeals turned down by Supreme CourtImage via Shutterstock

The legal firm pursuing flight delay compensation says it will push ahead with thousands of outstanding claims after Jet2 and Thomson Airways were denied permission to appeal High Court rulings.

The original landmark judgements in the Huzar V Jet2 and Dawson V Thomson cases were said to open up the aviation industry to potentially billions of pounds of claims.

The Supreme Court has turned down the appeals application for both, meaning that claims pending the decision can now go ahead.

David Bott, senior partner at Bott & Co, said: “This is a landmark day not just for Mr Huzar and Mr Dawson but for passengers everywhere.

“Two journeys which started with a delay have now finished, nearly eight years later in Mr Dawson’s case. Bott & Co has thousands of clients whose claims have been on hold pending today’s decisions.

“We will now be writing to the airlines, asking them to acknowledge the judgments, recognise their obligations and deal with these claims as promptly as possible.

“The Supreme Court’s decision has provided total clarity in the law, which will benefit both airlines and passengers going forward.

“We here at Bott & Co are proud of our part in this victory that will benefit millions of consumers each year and brings this country’s law in line with other European countries.”

The Huzar ruling means airlines must pay flight compensation for delays caused by technical problems as these are not considered an ‘extraordinary circumstance’ under flight compensation regulation EU261.

The Dawson judgment confirmed consumers in England and Wales have six years to bring a claim for flight delay compensation.

Bott & Co estimates 2.36 million passengers per year in England and Wales will benefit from the Huzar decision, equivalent to approximately £876 million in compensation claims.

And it claims the Dawson case has opened up an estimated £3.89 billion in historic flight compensation.

In a statement Thomson said: “We believe that it is reasonable to expect that those who perceive they have suffered a real loss as a result of an unfortunate delay should be able to make their claim within two years.

“We are surprised and disappointed to note the decision of the Supreme Court as we believe our position is sound in law. We will now review this position based on the court’s decision.”

Sourced from Travel Weekly


Flybe pilot arrested on suspicion of being over drink-drive limit

Flybe pilot arrested on suspicion of being over drink-drive limitA Flybe pilot is reported to have been removed from his aircraft and arrested on suspicion of being over the drink-drive limit just before he was due to fly.

The pilot was due to fly from Newquay to Gatwick on Wednesday morning before he was removed for a breath test.

A police source told the BBC that officers were alerted after a fellow crew member became concerned.

A police spokesman confirmed a 48-year-old man was arrested.

The flight was then cancelled and passengers faced delays of almost five hours.

One passenger, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “We all got on the plane and then there was an announcement. We were told the pilot was unwell.”

A Devon and Cornwall Police spokesman said: “A 48-year-old man from Crediton, Devon, was arrested on suspicion of being over the drink-drive limit.

“He was taken to Newquay Police Station and remains in custody.”

The airline said: “Flybe can confirm that one of its pilots volunteered to help the police with their inquiries at Newquay airport.

“Flybe is not able to comment further while the police investigation is taking place.”

A Civil Aviation Authority spokesman said: “For pilots the blood/alcohol limit is 20 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. For context, the UK drink drive limit is 80 miligrammes per 100 mililitres.”

Sourced from Travel Weekly


Travel firms’ shares hammered amid Ebola crisis

Travel firms' shares hammered amid Ebola crisisImage via Shutterstock

Travel and tourism shares took a hammering yesterday after a Spanish nurse became the first European to test positive for the Ebola virus.

Airlines, tour operators and hotels were marked sharply lower on the London Stock Exchange in reaction to the news that the deadly virus which has killed 3,400 in west Africa had reached Europe.

British Airways, Iberia and Vueling parent International Airlines Group was hit hardest, with shares plunging by 25¾p to 345½p.

EasyJet lost 78p to £13.89 following a period of improved stock market performance.

Carnival Corporation, the world’s biggest cruise ship operator, fell 167p to £23.28 and InterContinental Hotels slid 85p to £22.44.

Shares in Royal Caribbean and Norwegian also slumped on the New York Stock Exchange.

Thomson and First Choice owner Tui Travel was marked 15¼p lower to 382p and Thomas Cook dropped 6½p to 112½p.

Investors took fright despite reassurance from JP Morgan analysts that Ebola, which is spread through contact with infected body fluids, was not a “material risk” unless it became airborne, theTelegraph reported.

The SARS outbreak in 2003 shook airline shares, but investors should not expect Ebola to have the same impact, according to the broker’s experts.

“Any comparisons with SARS are misplaced, in our view, given that SARS was an airborne illness relatively easy to contract, and balance sheets were considerably weaker at that time from the aftermath of 9/11,” the analysts said.

Sourced from Travel Weekly


Ryanair aircraft ‘clip wings’ at Dublin airport

Ryanair aircraft 'clip wings' at Dublin airportEmergency services were on the runway at Dublin airport after two Ryanair aircraft came into contact with each other earlier this morning.

Airport authorities are reporting there is no disruption to flights.

One photograph from the scene shows the tip of the wing of one of the aircraft clipped off after the incident.

Fire tenders were at the scene as a matter of precaution.

A Dublin Airport Authority spokesman told independent.ie that nobody was injured during the incident which occurred just before 7am on a taxiway intersection.

The Irish Air Accident Investigation Unit is expected to launch a full investigation into the incident in keeping with procedures.

The flight schedule at the airport was operating normally less than half an hour later with some minor delays reported.

Ryanair has yet to comment on the incident.

Sourced from Travel Weekly


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