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United Kingdom: tourists stranded at airports

Holidays ruined, passengers camped out at the airport, numerous protests

Due to an unspecified "technical problem", air traffic in the United Kingdom went haywire on Monday and hundreds of thousands of passengers remained stranded at the airport. The effects continue today and will last for days, with delayed flights and long queues at airport security checks, as airlines try to clear the backlog of rescheduled flight connections.

Among the main victims of the chaos at the end of August are thousands of tourists and families returning home after their long-awaited holidays. These passengers were left stranded at the airport and in hotels, with no clarity on when they would be able to board their return journey.

Among them is Victoria Cadwallader-Webb, who suffers from type 1 diabetes, stranded in Bulgaria's Burgas airport after TUI Airways canceled her return flight to Cardiff, Wales. She says: "I have enough insulin with me, I'm covered for up to 12 hours, but I can't get my suitcase back". However, the airline said it is assisting all customers, contacting them one by one.

There are many stories like this, which expose the fragility of the air traffic control mechanism in the post-pandemic. The system used by air carriers is "highly automated": pilots hand over the flight plan to assistants, who then transmit it to the air traffic controller, to enter it into the digital platform. Therefore, a simple technical problem can lead to interruptions that cause inconvenience to hundreds of thousands of passengers; so the companies reverted to the old manual-paper system until the problem was solved.

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AVIONEWS - World Aeronautical Press Agency