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Ryanair Claims Air Traffic Controllers Are Discriminating Against the Airline

Sept. 04, 2018
3 min read
Ryanair Claims Air Traffic Controllers Are Discriminating Against the Airline
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Ryanair, Europe's largest airline and budget behemoth, has claimed it's the victim of discrimination.

The airline says that NATS, the British air traffic control service, is discriminating against London's Stansted airport (STS) and giving preferential treatment to London's larger airports.

Stansted is Ryanair's busiest hub, and it also experiences way more air traffic control delay's compared to London Heathrow (LHR) and London Gatwick (LGW). The airline claims new data from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) supports its claims — Heathrow experienced zero NATS-related delays and just 10% of flights from Gatwick were delayed by NATS. However, Stansted experienced a whopping 52% of delays due to NATS from January through March 2018.

“Ryanair and Stansted are clearly being discriminated against by the UK airline owned ATC provider NATS,” said Ryanair COO Peter Bellew.

The airline blamed the air traffic control group for cancelled and delayed flights — saying that the organization is understaffed during the busy summer season.

“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," added Bellew.

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Ryanair's had to cancel hundreds of flights this summer that have affected more than 100,000 customers, but not just because of air traffic control restrictions — the airline has also been dealing with a massive strike from its pilots union.

“The failure of NATS to fairly supply ATC staffing and airspace resources at Stansted Airport has wreaked havoc this summer on both Ryanair and London Stansted flight schedules, with 2018 shaping up to be the worst year on record for ATC disruptions at Stansted,” Ryanair has said in a statement.

Ryanair is calling on the UK Department of Transportation and EU commission to take "urgent action" to correct the problem.

The CAA says it has yet to receive a formal complaint from the airline. NATS is hitting back and disputes Ryanair's claims, which it says are similar to similar assertions it made in 2016.

“Ryanair performance this summer cannot be blamed on UK air traffic control,” a NATS spokesman told the Express.

The spokesman said adding extra air traffic controls to monitor the area wouldn't fix the issue and that the airspace needs to redesigned before more aircraft can fly in the area.

“The figures Ryanair quote from the beginning of the year coincide with the introduction of new technology that affected the number of flights in and out of Stansted during that period," the spokesperson continued. "Luton airport was similarly affected at that time and other airports were affected at other times over a seven 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."

Featured image by AFP/Getty Images