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Faulty phone line diverts two flights

Passengers at Gibraltar International Airport. Photo by Brian Reyes

Two flights were diverted to Malaga on Wednesday after a fault in the telephone line between Gibraltar and Seville air traffic control prevented them from landing.

The first flight was the afternoon BA service from Heathrow, which landed in Spain leaving outbound passengers waiting for hours to be told about alternative travel arrangements.

The flight should have left at 5.30pm but it was not until 9pm that passengers, who were still waiting in the departure lounge in Gibraltar, were told the service had been cancelled, and that they would be offered seats on a 1pm flight on Thursday.

The second flight was the evening easyJet service from Manchester, which was also diverted to Spain. Passengers on that flight were bussed to the Spanish airport for a late departure.

“On Wednesday 28th December 2022, there was a telephone line failure between the Seville Air Traffic Control Centre and Gibraltar,” a spokesman for the Ministry of Defence, which owns the runway, said.

“As a result, Seville were unable to hand aircraft over to Gibraltar which resulted in two flights being diverted to Malaga.”

“Engineers are currently on site investigating the issue.”

The phone line is used for recording handovers between the two air traffic controllers should they be required in future in the event of any air safety investigation, much as the ‘black box’ records all interactions on a plane.

The Chronicle understands the fault is believed to be on the Spanish side of the phone network.

Despite the issues affecting the commercial flights, a military transport plane was able to land on Wednesday afternoon.

Military flights operate under different rules those that apply to commercial flights, which are subject to international air safety conventions.

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