Ryanair sues air traffic control body Nats over 'terrible' flight delays

Stock image of a Ryanair plane (PA Archive)
Stock image of a Ryanair plane (PA Archive)

Ryanair is suing air traffic control body Nats after severe disruption last summer hit more than 700,000 passengers.

Nearly 750,000 passengers were disrupted when flights were grounded at UK airports on August 28 last year after Nats suffered a technical glitch while processing a flight plan.

An inquiry into what happened published an interim report in March which highlighted the lack of “any multi-agency rehearsal of the management of an incident of this nature and scale”.

Speaking to Sky News, Ryanair boss, Michael O’Leary, said he wanted to recover customers’ compensation costs from the flight controllers.

“When things go wrong in the airline industry, we have to compensate our passengers and we want to recover those costs directly from Nats,” he said.

"We continue to call for the chief executive of Nats, Martin Rolfe, to either step down or be dismissed. We think he's demonstrated he's incapable of running an efficient ATC [air traffic control] service.

"We're the same size in the UK as we are in Italy. Last year in the UK, 7,000 Ryanair flights were delayed because of either Nats short-staffing or system failures. Only 170 flights in Italy were affected by Nats delays."

Mr O'Leary added: "So, it's a terrible service that Nats is providing. We pay them over £100m a year in ATC fees and we're entitled to expect a better service.

"The August Bank Holiday weekend last year was a complete shambles."

A spokesperson for NATS confirmed that it had been served with legal proceedings over a Ryanair claim in the High Court claim after last year’s disruption.

Mr Rolfe earlier this week said aviation organisations will conduct an industry-wide rehearsal of major flight disruption in the wake of August’s meltdown.

He told MPs: “The CAA is supportive, the airlines and airports are supportive.

“We are planning to do an industry-wide practice run for a disruption scenario after the summer.”