Responding to comments from certain airlines and MPs following Saturday's disruption to air traffic in the UK, NATS fully agrees that an inquiry into the level of contingency and resilience in UK airspace would be welcome and beneficial for all.
NATS Chief Executive, Richard Deakin, said:
“A public debate has started over the level of contingency NATS had in place for Saturday's issue. We delivered over 90% of an extremely busy schedule of flights during the day and recovered to normal operations in 14 hours. We had never seen this technical issue in over 10 years of operation at Swanwick, during which time over 20 million flights have been safely handled, with a service level among the best in the world.
“We believe this is an appropriate level of contingency that balances both a good level of service to our customers with an affordable level of cost for them to bear. As a regulated business, we also believe it is in line with our regulatory settlement.
“However, it was clear that the reduction in our service had a significant impact on our customers and the flying public. This is something we deeply regret and are determined to do all we can to avoid it happening again.
“Immediately after the incident, we launched our own major incident inquiry and our Board has also instigated, through our Technical Review Committee, an investigation led by the independent non-executive member of our Board and Chairman of the Airline Group, Peter Read.
“Some of the comments over the weekend show that some parties believe our contingency was insufficient and instead we should be able to continue at 100% capacity in any eventuality. In addition to these measures, we believe it would now be to everyone's benefit for the CAA to conduct an open and transparent review to confirm:
- whether the level of contingency we have in place meets reasonable operational expectations at reasonable cost, or
- whether further measures need to be adopted, and if so
- how these further measures should be funded within the regulatory regime
“We are keen to do all we can at NATS to ensure the aviation industry has a full understanding of the capability that is in place in the UK and to take any further steps our customers and regulators decide are necessary to help avoid a repeat of last Saturday's problems."
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