Gatwick has seen more flight delays due to air traffic control restrictions than any other major European airport, new figures have shown.
Willie Walsh, director-general of global airline body the International Air Transport Association (Iata), said figures from Eurocontrol show that the West Sussex airport has been severely affected by the situation.
EasyJet preemptively cancelled 1,700 summer flights early this week, the majority of which were to and from Gatwick, blaming ‘unprecedented’ ATC restrictions for its problems.
Mr Walsh said: ‘While some areas of ATC performance have improved over 2022, we remain unacceptably behind 2019 levels.
‘Gatwick is now the worst-performing airport among the 31 major airports reported by Eurocontrol and sits at number 106 out of the 110 airports covered by the entire data set.’
Mr Walsh also criticised government inaction, urging politicians to be ‘held accountable’ for the economic and environmental damage caused by the situation so they ‘have an incentive to make better decisions’.
He added: ‘It is disheartening that the politicians who were quick to criticise airlines last year, have remained silent about the disruption caused by government-controlled or regulated ATC providers.’
The airline veteran also stressed the importance of ATC services being maintained during industrial action ‘while respecting workers’ rights’.
A spokesman for Gatwick said: ‘Flights at London Gatwick are increasingly being regulated at peak times due to the knock-on effects of air traffic control restrictions across numerous parts of Europe.
‘These restrictions are beyond the control of the airport and have been put in place to manage and smooth out the flow of aircraft arriving from, and departing to, disrupted airspace across Europe.
‘Multiple factors are causing airspace restrictions across Europe, including industrial action, staff shortages, the war in Ukraine and poor weather.
‘Gatwick has more flights to Europe than any other UK airport and can be impacted disproportionately by disruption on the continent.
‘We are working closely with our airline partners to minimise disruption and apologise to any passengers who may be inconvenienced.’
NATS, the UK’s leading provider of air traffic control services, took over the provision of ATC services at the airport last October. It has been approached for a comment.
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