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Fuel spillage triggers knock-on delays and leaves easyJet passengers waiting on tarmac

Archive photo by Johnny Bugeja.

Passengers on an easyJet flight to Gatwick were left waiting on the tarmac for over an hour and a half on Thursday due to a fuel spillage that caused knock-on disruption at the airport.

The unforeseen delay was exacerbated when air traffic controllers had to take a compulsory safety break just as the aircraft was preparing to take off.

The easyJet flight to Gatwick was due to depart from Gibraltar International Airport at 11.35am but was delayed until 1.20pm.

Air Traffic Control provider NATS said it had planned to work around a short-notice staffing shortage on Thursday and that flights would not have been impacted had it not been for the spillage, which put part of the airport’s parking space out of action.

“Due to long delays caused by factors outside of our control that changed the schedule, including a fuel spillage and the closure of multiple airport stands, one flight was delayed and we are sorry for the inconvenience this caused,” a spokesperson from NATS said.

“We would also like to clarify that controller working patterns and rest breaks are strictly regulated, and the ‘lunch-time’ break today was in fact a mandatory fatigue break that had to be taken to comply with safety rules and regulations.”

The MoD also apologised for the delay, adding it was regrettable but safety was the priority.

“We are aware of a delay to an aircraft departing RAF Gibraltar on 29 Jun 23. This was due to a range of operational factors affecting staff timetables on the day, with amendments necessary to ensure safety,” an MOD spokesperson said.

“Whilst the delay of flights is of course regrettable, RAF Gibraltar will always prioritise the safety of all airport users. We apologise for any inconvenience caused to passengers.”

The MoD spokesperson added that the busy schedule, compounded by a temporary restriction in available aircraft parking slots, meant that there was no natural break in the flying programme to achieve the mandated rest period, which resulted in a delayed departure to an already delayed civil aircraft.

“Civil aircraft parking slots were limited due to cleaning operations,” the spokesman said.

“RAF Gibraltar assisted and prevented the diversion of flights to Malaga, by facilitating temporary parking on their estate, whilst parking slots became available at the terminal.”

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