Ryanair’s CEO, Michael O’Leary, has dismissed a preliminary report from the National Air Traffic Services (Nats) regarding the IT glitch responsible for over 1,000 flight cancellations and delays, leaving passengers stranded. O’Leary described the Nats report as “full of rubbish” and “bogus,” highlighting his dissatisfaction with its findings.
Widespread Travel Chaos The IT glitch, which occurred on Monday, August 28, led to widespread travel chaos, affecting more than 250,000 passengers as over a quarter of all UK flights on that day were disrupted. The repercussions of the glitch continued for several days, causing significant disruptions for travelers.
Flight Cancellations Data from aviation analytics company Cirium revealed that over 1,000 flights departing from UK airports were canceled due to the IT problems. The extent of the cancellations left both passengers and airlines grappling with the consequences.
Nats Report Findings The Nats report characterized the IT failure as a “one in 15 million” occurrence, attributing it to software’s inability to extract a valid UK portion of a flight plan, resulting in system shutdowns. Even the backup system followed the same steps and ceased functioning.
O’Leary’s Critique In a video message, Michael O’Leary expressed his dissatisfaction with the Nats report, emphasizing that it failed to explain why the backup service was affected by a single erroneous flight plan. He voiced concerns that without a clear understanding of the issue, a similar incident could recur. O’Leary called for accountability, stating that “heads should roll” and demanding the resignation of the head of Nats.
Calls for Reimbursement Ryanair’s CEO echoed calls from airlines for Nats to reimburse them for the expenses incurred in refunding passengers for accommodation, food, and taxi costs during the disruptions. He argued that Nats should be held responsible for the financial burden placed on airlines due to their incompetence.
Disruption Magnitude O’Leary contended that figures regarding the disruption were “completely understated,” emphasizing the significant impact on travelers and airlines. Ryanair alone had approximately 63,000 passengers affected by flight cancellations during the IT failure.
Industry Impact The International Air Transport Association (Iata) estimated that the overall cost to airlines due to the disruptions, including the need to provide alternative flights, food, drinks, and hotel accommodations, was nearly £100 million. Airlines UK, an industry body, emphasized that airlines should not bear the full financial burden of such significant disruptions.
Nats Response Nats CEO Martin Rolfe acknowledged the rare occurrence of such incidents and reassured measures to prevent their recurrence. He pointed to their preliminary report detailing the incident’s causes, their response, and steps taken to prevent future incidents. Nats welcomed any further review by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
Unprecedented Failure Nats emphasized that the system failure had never been encountered before, despite processing over 15 million flight plans over the five years of its service. The report did not identify the specific flight plan that led to the chaos but mentioned that it featured two waypoints with identical names, causing the confusion.
Transport Secretary Informed The report’s findings have been shared with Transport Secretary Mark Harper, underscoring the importance of addressing and preventing such IT failures in the aviation sector.