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MENAFN - Arab News - 08/12/2013

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(MENAFN - Arab News) Thousands of passengers were left stranded in the UK on Saturday and in different countries across the globe after hundreds of flights were grounded at UK airports following a technical fault at the country's main air traffic control center.
"The flights operated by Saudi Arabian Airlines, the Kingdom's national carrier, were not affected until 5 p.m. on Saturday," Abdullah Al-Azhar, a Saudia spokesman, told Arab News by telephone.
Al-Azhar said: "Saudia operates two flights daily to the UK, with one flying out from Riyadh and the other from Jeddah." Neither flight has been affected.
In fact, the problem reported at the UK's Swanwick air traffic control center led to delays in flights across southern England, Ireland and Europe, with Heathrow, Stansted, Gatwick, Luton, Southampton, London City and Dublin airports reporting flight delays.
Manchester airport was also caught up in the chaos and flights south of Edinburgh were affected. The UK's National Air Traffic Service, which controls the crowded airspace over England, said it was experiencing problems switching between nighttime and busier daytime operations at its control center in Swanwick in southern England.
An agent manning the local British Airways office refused to provide information about any disruptions to British Airways flights. "Call London for information," the agent said curtly.
When Arab News sought a specific phone number for a BA spokesman or media contact, he shot back: "Go to the BA website and find out yourself."
According to statements released by the airlines operating to the UK and UK aviation officials, the technical glitch was preventing staff opening new control positions to deal with busier daytime traffic, meaning the service was struggling to handle the high volume of flights.
"At the moment, we don't know when we will be able to rectify the problem," said a statement released by a British aviation official.
The Association of British Travel Agents said the trouble was unlikely to be resolved soon. Heathrow Airport, Europe's busiest, experienced delays of one hour or more on many morning departures and canceled several dozen short-haul flights to destinations such as Nice, France, Milan and Istanbul. Long-distance flights to some destinations in the Middle East were also affected.
London's Stansted airport said departing flights were delayed by between 30 minutes and two hours because of restrictions on air space and the flow of planes. UK's Gatwick Airport said 20 percent of flights were being delayed. Spillover delays were reported across Britain and at Dublin Airport in Ireland.

 






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