London Gatwick hit by ATC woes just after saying capacity caps won’t be extended

London Gatwick Airport

Just hours after saying it had no plans to extend capacity cuts beyond August, London Gatwick Airport (LGW) was hit by air traffic control staffing problems, forcing it to restrict the number of flights arriving on August 23, 2022.  

Staff shortages across the aviation industry and absences due to sickness, some because of COVID-19, have disrupted operations across the aviation industry in summer 2022. Several major airports, such as LGW, London Heathrow (LHR), Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS) and Frankfurt Airport (FRA) have therefore restricted the number of flights they were willing to handle over the busy summer months.  

On August 23, 2022, the UK’s second largest airport declared in its half-year results that it no longer needed to extend capacity declarations that it had put in place for July and August. The airport operator, part of the VINCI Group, explained that it had hired more than 400 new security staff and put in place additional resources across the operation.   

“The unprecedented growth in traffic led to short term operational issues in June, however our decisive early action to limit the airport’s capacity in the crucial school holiday period of July and August has ensured passengers have experienced reliable flight timetables over the summer months,” commented Stewart Wingate, Chief Executive Officer of Gatwick Airport. “We are now very much operating business as usual and do not see any reason to extend the capacity declaration.” 

That contrasts to LHR and AMS, which have both announced plans to extend capacity caps into the fall.  

However, shortly after the results statement was published, passengers were confronted with fresh delays and cancelations.  

In response to customer enquiries on Twitter, LGW explained that it had put restrictions on the number of arriving flights due to “late staff absence in the airport’s control tower.” 

European air traffic network manager Eurocontrol said arrivals at LGW would be regulated all day due to ATC staffing and that moderate to high delays were expected.   

Despite the disruption this summer, Gatwick Airport upgraded its forecasts for 2022 passenger numbers. It now expects 32.8 million passengers, in comparison with a previous forecast for 30.6 million. In the first half of 2022, 13.1 million passengers passed through the airport and air traffic volumes are now at around 75% of pre-pandemic levels.  

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