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  1. Updates from Friday 12 December 2014

Live Reporting

All times stated are UK

Get involved

Duncan Smith

BBC News Online

That's all from BBC London Local Live today. For more updates on the ongoing flights disruption keep an eye on the

BBC News website throughout the evening and watch the
BBC News Channel.

BBC London Local Live will return on Monday at 08:00.

Advice from London's airports

Gatwick Airport: Travel to the airport as normal and contact your airline for flight information.

Heathrow Airport: Please check your flight status before travelling to the airport.

London City Airport: There will be cancellations and delays, please check with your airlines.

Luton Airport: Flights now resumed but please expect residual delays.

Problems around the country

Delayed passengers at Stansted


situation around the country includes:

  • Heathrow: Fifty flights cancelled. Others delayed but planes now landing and taking off
  • Gatwick: Flights are now departing but still subject to delays
  • Stansted: Flights still landing, no flights departing
  • London City: Cancellations and delays
  • Luton: All flights experiencing delays
  • Bristol: Limited departures reported
  • Luton: All flights experiencing delays but planes now leaving
  • Edinburgh: No queues but passengers being advised to check with their airlines
  • Glasgow: Some delays to departures
  • Southampton: Experiencing ''problems''
  • Oxford: Experiencing "some delays", mainly to services arriving from overseas
  • Leeds Bradford: All flights out and most flights in suspended until 1900
  • Birmingham: Some departures are being re-routed to avoid flying through London airspace
  • East Midlands: Departures and arrivals delayed but passengers advised to turn up as normal

Airspace analysis

Ben Ando

BBC News

As soon as air traffic control has a problem, nothing is allowed to take off that might add to the problem.

This is unlikely to be power problem as there are duplicate and back-up systems - including even diesel generators at a push.

It is more likely to be software, which caused the last major problem when the incoming morning crew could not switch over from night-time control system.

With aircraft out of position, or flight crews out of hours, there are likely to be knock-on problems for many flights.

Space at a premium

Beth Rose

BBC News Online

Space seems to be running out at London City Airport as passengers wait for information about their flights.

London City Airport

Thanks to

@kaweechekchen for the picture.

Airspace 'was not closed'

Tom Symonds

Home Affairs correspondent

Security sources have not seen any evidence the problems were caused by computer hacking.

National air traffic services (Nats) insists at no point was the airspace closed.

Planes were allowed to land, albeit at a reduced rate but, aircraft were being held on the ground. Since Heathrow operates close to its maximum capacity on a good day - severe disruption was inevitable.

Bristol airport 'delays but no cancellations'

Several flights due to depart from Bristol Airport were running late this evening but no services have yet been cancelled.

A spokeswoman said: "Delays can be expected throughout the rest of the day, although at this point no flights to or from Bristol Airport have been cancelled as a result. We are doing all we can to keep passengers informed of the latest updates on their flight status."

Watch: 'A game of three-dimensional chess'

Travel journalist Simon Calder told the BBC air traffic control over London was "a constant game of three-dimensional chess".

Map of London showing aircraft icons over Heathrow area

He said the impact of the failure on the busiest travel day of the week, Friday, meant cancellations would quickly build up.

Babies 'kicking off'

Passenger Howard Brown said: "We left Glasgow at 9.30 this morning and arrived at Heathrow at 10.30. We were due to leave on our second flight to Rome at 12.40 but it was delayed due to industrial action in Italy. We were eventually allowed to board this plane at 2.45 hoping to take off 45 minutes later but we're still just sitting here.

"The staff have said we're in a queue for take off but have no idea where in the queue we are. We have been here for over two hours and we still haven't been offered drinks.

"There are a few babies on board who have been kicking off but at the moment things are relatively calm."

Happy birthday?

Teenager Florence I Weston

@BBCLondonNews stuck at
@HeathrowAirport awaiting a flight to Singapore at 7 and it's my 18th tomorrow - I may have it at Heathrow!!

Queue to rebook flights

Federica Ceresca said: "I was flying from Marseilles when 45 minutes into the flight, the first officer said we wouldn't be able to land at Heathrow Airport as there was a technical problem.

Re-booking queue at Heathrow
Federica Ceresa

"We were then just about to land in Paris when they rerouted us to Brussels. Then we were about to land when they rerouted us again to Heathrow. We were on the first plane to land at Heathrow. Arrivals was empty. It was like the desert. The rebooking line though was extremely long."

'Up and running'

BBC News Channel

Managing director of operations at NATS, Martin Rolfe

told the BBC News Channel: "Obviously, it will take a while for the airline schedule to get back to normal.

"Any disruption like that will take a little while to work through the system, but yes, the system is back up and running."

Crowds at Heathrow Airport

The scene at Heathrow airport this evening as the knock-on effects of the airspace restriction are felt by passengers.

Crowds at Heathrow

Airports 'are full'

Passenger Liz Clifford said: "I was booked on the 15.33 Flybe flight to Southampton from Manchester Airport. There is no room for us in the airport so we are currently stuck on a bus on the tarmac - had to wait 35 minutes for one to become available.

"People are starting to get more irritated. We haven't received any further information, nor refreshments."

British Airways: Refund policy

Beth Rose

BBC News Online

British Airways has said any passengers due to fly out of Heathrow, Gatwick or London City Airport tonight are entitled to rebook their flights or get a full refund.

In a statement the company said: "We anticipate disruption to both departing and arriving flights but will do all we can to minimise any impact.

British Airways generic
Getty Images

"We will endeavour to keep our customers informed of the status of their flight but we would urge anyone with a flight booking to check before leaving for the airport.

"If you do not wish to travel from Heathrow, Gatwick or London City this evening we are offering our customers the opportunity to rebook their flight to a later date or a full refund."

Nats apology

Martin Rolfe, the managing director of National Air Traffic Services (Nats), has apologised for this afternoon's disruption.

He said NATS is still investigating the technical problem that occurred.

He ruled out any power outage, which was first thought to blame, and confirmed there was a failure in the flight data element of its system. This resulted in flight controllers having less data available to them and therefore the rate of air traffic was reduced for safety reasons.

Mr Rolfe absolutely ruled out the disruption was caused by any kind of system computer hack.

BreakingDisruption 'unacceptable'

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has said: "Disruption on this scale is simply unacceptable and I have asked Nats for a full explanation of this evening's incident."

Restricted airspace: Your views

Anna Devonald emails: My sister Julie Woods and her husband Stewart are travelling from Heathrow to New York and were stranded on the runway.

The flight has now left but passengers have been told that because the plane was running, a refuel in Boston was necessary but now have been informed that they may have to travel by train from Boston to New York.

Tracey Atkinson emails: Why should the airlines have to pay overnight costs etc? This really isn't their fault. Common sense says these costs are for passengers travel insurance to cover, but strange EC regulations say otherwise.

Nigel Highes emails: Sitting on an NYC bound flight at Heathrow. Media hyperbole fun to watch. 51st in line - lucky us...

Watch: 'Things are moving'

Simon Peach arrived on a flight from Istanbul to Heathrow and after an hour on the ground was still waiting to disembark.

Aerial shot of London

He told the BBC that "it sounds like things are moving in the right direction."

'I'd like to get home'

BBC London 94.9


Eddie Nestor spoke to a passenger at Heathrow who told

BBC London 94.9: "I'm supposed to be going to Chicago. I'd like to get back to my family."

'Disgruntled passengers'

Josh Rasbash, a software engineer in the aviation business, has been on a delayed flight from Edinburgh to Brussels. He said: "I've been stuck on the plane for an hour and a half. Most passengers are disgruntled.

"You have to be extremely careful with managing a flight. You can't just let them land wherever. It needs to be carefully organised and managed so we don't hit each other in the air.

"It's Ryanair so I'm not expecting much."

'No food or drink'

Robert Kowalski

@BBCLondonNews sitting
@LDNLutonAirport on #W62066
@wizzair policy do not allow to sell drinks or food when grounded. #nonsense

Swanwick air traffic control centre

Swanwick controls the 200,000 square miles of airspace above England and Wales, cost £623m to build, and employs about 1,300 controllers.

The facility opened in 2002 and handles 5,000 flights every 24 hours.

50 flights cancelled at Heathrow

Rebecca Cafe

BBC News

Heathrow says 50 flights had been cancelled but it expects that figure will rise as the evening goes on.

The glitch lasted from 15:27 to 16:03.

The fact that Heathrow typically handles between 80 and 90 flights an hour shows how even a short disruption to take-offs and landings can have a big effect.

Passengers wait

Here's a picture taken on a mobile phone of passengers who have been stuck on a plane waiting to take off from Luton Airport for the past two hours.

Paseengers on plane at Luton Airport

Passenger confusion

Passenger Felix Leach

@BBCLondonNews -sitting airside
@HeathrowAirport term 5. Absolutely no information. All screens showing flights as on time...

'Smooth operations'

Mark Norman

BBC South East Business Correspondent

Gatwick South terminal apparently operating very smoothly

Centre at heart of glitch

Here is an undated handout picture of the air traffic control centre at Swanwick which is where the computer glitch was.

Swanwick air traffic control centre

Last to make it

Mary from west London writes: "I am on the BA flight from Delhi which must have been one of last to make it in.

"No stands available because no planes leaving. We have taxi'd from Terminal 5 to 1, and have been told we will be taken by bus back to Terminal 5.

"Passengers tired after long flight but good tempered, just relieved that we made it to the ground."

Dublin 'impacted'

Passenger Adam Sullivan

@BBCLondonNews nothing moving out of Dublin, plane loaded but sat here waiting for an update. It's not just UK impacted

Short-haul flights most affected

Theo Leggett

Business correspondent, BBC News

The bulk of the cancellations are short haul flights and budget carriers in particular and the low cost airlines.

They operate very tight turnaround times - a flight say from London to Milan will stop off in Milan, there'll be a 20-25 minute turnaround, they'll take the passengers off the plane, give it a quick clean and put passengers back on.

That flight will then go to another destination where there'll be a quick turnaround again.

Double trouble

Passenger Lee Cripps

@BBCLondonNews have been sat in Milan airport from 10am due to a strike, now the airspace issue! Can't leave til plane arrives from London.

Birmingham Airport flights 're-routed'

Beth Rose

BBC News Online

Birmingham Airport has said some of its departing flights will be re-routed to avoid flying through London airspace.

It advises all passengers to

check its website for more information.

Watch: 'Passengers are stoical'

BBC journalist Joe Inwood is one of many passengers whose flights have been held or cancelled.

Main terminal building for London Luton Airport in Bedfordshire
Luton Airport Ops Ltd.

He spoke to the BBC from a plane on the tarmac at Luton airport.

'Don't expect compensation'

Simon Calder

Travel Editor, Independent

You can't expect cash compensation because this is not something which is the airline's responsibility.

You can, however, expect a duty of care. That means once the delay gets above a few hours, the airline has to look after you, provide meals and so on.

If people are stuck in the airport overnight, and I very very much fear that there will be many thousands of people in that position, the airline has to provide hotel accommodation for you and it has to get you to your destination as soon as it possibly can.

System working

Tom Edwards

Transport correspondent, London

The system is working again so that's really good. The big issue now is the queues.

This is one of the biggest airspaces in the world so closing it has a huge impact.

Empty skies

Anthony North

@bbclondonnews Zero planes visible from top of Canary Wharf. Very unusual.

Empty sky
Anthony North


BBC News Channel

Pilot and aviation expert Andrew Brooks told t

he BBC News Channel: "This is a one-off.

"It causes problems, but so does snow. So does ice."