What should the industry take away from UK flight chaos?

by | Aug 29, 2023 | Airlines, Airports, Digital Transformation, Travel Tech

Travel disruption is predicted to last for days after more than a quarter of UK flights were cancelled on Monday.

Yesterday, a “technical issue” with the UK’s air traffic control system occurred and although the problem was resolved the same day by 3:15pm BST, it has continued to cause widespread disruption. The scale of disarray was amplified by the August bank holiday, where approximately one million passengers were scheduled to fly on one of the busiest travel days of the year.

So far, an estimated 1,200 flights to and from the UK were cancelled as a result of the National Air Traffic Services’ (Nats) failure, affecting around 250,000 people. Today alone, British Airways had to ground more than 60 flights, while easyJet was forced to ground over 80 flights.

Despite the fault lying with air traffic control, the industry’s response has caused discontent. The Times reported that passengers who were “abandoned in airport departure lounges last night, complained at being unable to find help on the ground, facing closed call centres and airline apps that keep crashing.”

One passenger stranded in Palma, told The Times:

“We were really surprised at the lack of communication throughout, [from the airline] you had to go onto the app yourself, they didn’t notify you at all. We’d been thinking perhaps if you were a bit older or not particularly tech savvy, you really would have struggled. You could have travelled to the airport and it would have been very very difficult.”

Disruption is to some degree inevitable. However, the way airlines and airports are able to respond to this can make all the difference to passengers. Effective communication and assistance are crucial to minimising the inconvenience and distress travellers must endure.

It is therefore crucial the industry’s ability to manage disruptions is not overlooked as it concentrates on prevention. This incident raises questions around the role of tech in facilitating communication with passengers and highlights the necessity of ensuring a smoother experience for passengers when navigating unexpected events.


At World Aviation Festival in September, the IROPS summit sessions will look at customer recovery as well as prediction and prevention. Here, the importance of prioritising communication with passengers and the human aspect of disruption is explored whilst also touching on the applications of technology. To hear from speakers from airlines including AirAsia, TAP Air Portugal, and United get your ticket now.