Record number of flights for busiest week in UK airspace

24 May 2019

NATS, the UK’s leading provider of air navigation services, is forecasting the busiest week for air traffic, with a potentially record-breaking 9,000 flights expected in one day, today.

This beats the previous record of 8,854 flights handled by air traffic controllers on 25 May 2018 and is significantly higher than the average of 7,000+ flights per day that is usually seen.

As well as the May Day bank holiday and school half term, events such as the Cannes Film Festival and Monaco Grand Prix are all contributing to the increase in flights in UK airspace and throughout Europe.  The finals of the Europa League Final in Baku and the Champions League Final in Madrid next week are also resulting in a substantial increase in charter and private jet flights as fans are keen to travel and support their teams.

Wendy Howard-Allen, Head of Service Performance, NATS, said, “We knew this period was going to be busy and so have been planning alongside the airlines and airports for a number of months. We have put a number of measures in place to optimise the use of our airspace so we can handle these extra flights while keeping delay to a minimum.”

NATS routinely handles almost a quarter of European traffic while contributing less delay than other air navigation service providers in Europe. However, with demand increasing, passengers could face increased delay as parts of our airspace, particularly over the South East of England, are already capacity constrained; this is felt even more acutely during the busy summer months.

Juliet Kennedy, NATS Operations Director, said: “We are seeing unprecedented numbers of flights today and for the coming days as people head off on their holidays or to watch the football. Today could be the busiest day on record as we are expecting to manage more than 9,000 flights, but that is likely to be repeated next week, so the record could be broken again.

“It is not just UK airspace that is busy; the rest of Europe is too. That is why we, and the industry, along with government are looking to modernise airspace over the next few years, so we can reduce the environmental impact of flying and all be more confident that our holidays and business trips will not be affected by costly delays.”

NATS is a member of Our Future Skies, which unites organisations from across the aviation industry to highlight the need for airspace modernisation and make flying quicker, quieter and cleaner. Its aim is to raise awareness of how our air traffic flies the skies today and why we need to change it, more than 50 years on from when it was first designed.

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