Staff sickness shuts down Gibraltar air traffic control, causing diversions and cancellations
All flights to and from Gibraltar on Sunday evening were diverted or cancelled due to the closure of air traffic control due to staff sickness.
Two inbound flights from Gatwick were diverted to Malaga, while the service linking the Rock to Casablanca via Tangier was cancelled outright.
"Due to short notice staff sickness we are currently experiencing a shortage of air traffic controllers at Gibraltar Airport," said a spokesman for NATS, the UK-based company that runs air traffic control in Gibraltar under contract to the Ministry of Defence.
"Unfortunately this will result in three flights having to operate from Malaga rather than Gibraltar."
"We are very sorry for the inconvenience this will cause to everyone affected. If passengers have any questions about their flight they should contact their airline directly."
easyJet, which had two flights impacted, told passengers the diversions were due to “an air traffic control closure” in Gibraltar.
“The disruption is beyond our control and is considered an extraordinary circumstance,” the airline said.
The closure of air traffic control also drew a reaction Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, who took to Twitter to express his disappointment that measures were not in place to prevent the disruption to hundreds of passengers.
Disappointed that @NATS / @MODGibraltar unable to provide service to Gibraltar Airport this evening, causing closure & flight cancellations. Our air traffic controllers guarantee safety of risk filled operations. Contingencies need to be put in place by those responsible. pic.twitter.com/CrjBpDP4xN
— Fabian Picardo (@FabianPicardo) September 15, 2019
EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this article suggested a flight from Heathrow had also been diverted. In fact, there were no flights from Heathrow this evening and this has been corrected in the copy.