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Ryanair in spat with UK air traffic controllers over 'discrimination' claims

British air traffic controllers have hit back at claims by Ryanair that they are “discriminating against” London Stansted, the airline's biggest base globally.
The low-cost carrier claimed on Monday that Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) figures “confirm” allegations that NATS, the Britain’s air traffic controller provider, gave Heathrow “special treatment”. Ryanair alleged that Gatwick “is also being preferred”.
NATS, however, dismissed Ryanair’s claims, insisting it “does not discriminate between airlines or airports”.
A NATS spokeswoman said: “Ryanair performance this summer cannot be blamed on UK air traffic control.”
Stansted owner Manchester Airport Group (MAG), meanwhile, said it was "seeking answers from NATS on the root cause for these delays" and was "considering the need for further action, including the possibility of making a formal complaint to the CAA". 
How Ryanair is taking over Europe
Airlines have this year blamed the actions of air traffic controllers (ATCs) across Europe for large numbers of costly cancellations. Across Europe delays increased two and a half times in the first six months of the year compared with 2017, according to air traffic management organisation Eurocontrol.
Despite many airlines saying rolling strike action by ATCs is the driving force behind flights being grounded, Eurocontrol analysis concluded that staff capacity constraints had played a larger role. Some 45pc of delays were caused by ATC capacity constraints with 27pc as a result of industrial action.
Ryanair performance this summer cannot be blamed on UK air traffic controlNATS spokeswoman
Ryanair based its allegations on Oberon Report statistics published by the CAA. These show NATS attributable delays total 29,989 minutes in the first three months of 2018 across London City, Stansted, Luton, Gatwick and Heathrow.
Some 15,268 minutes, or 52pc, of such delays happened at Stansted. Luton suffered 8,814 minutes and Gatwick 2,925 minutes - 30pc and 10pc of the total respectively.
Not one minute of NATS-associated delays was recorded at Heathrow, the CAA figures suggest.
NATS is jointly owned by the Government, Heathrow and an airline group including British Airways, easyJet and Virgin Atlantic.
Ryanair's comments come as the Home Office claimed delayed flights were to blame for spiralling passport queue waiting times at Stansted. 
Ryanair in spat with UK air traffic controllers over 'discrimination' claims

Ryanair pilots on strike

Credit:
SILAS STEIN/DPA
The issue with ATCs across Europe is just one of a number of battles Ryanair is facing. It was recently struck down as pilots across five countries went on strike, forcing one in six flights to be cancelled on August 10.
Ryanair chief operating officer Peter Bellew said the differential between Stansted and Heathrow was “unjustifiable”.
He said: “Ryanair and Stansted are clearly being discriminated against by the UK airline-owned ATC provider NATS.  
“These disruptions are unfair and unacceptable... NATS don’t have enough staff.  Ryanair is today submitting a formal complaint to the European Commission and the UK CAA.”
Ryanair in spat with UK air traffic controllers over 'discrimination' claims

Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary

Credit:
Max Rossi/REUTERS
A MAG spokesman said: “Good on-time flight performance is a key priority for London Stansted and our customers, and we work closely with others in the industry to deliver the best possible service.  NATS has an important role to play in ensuring a level playing field between competing airports in how it manages airspace.
"The CAA’s Oberon report highlights a number of issues that merit further investigation, particularly the evidence that suggests that Stansted experienced a disproportionate share of ATC delays in the London area." 
The NATS spokeswoman said: “The figures Ryanair quote from earlier this year coincide with the introduction of new technology that affected the number of flights in and out of Stansted during that period. Luton airport was similarly affected at that time and other airports were affected at other times over a six month period. All airlines and airports were notified of the timetable in advance and understood the new technology will help us increase capacity safely in the future.
Airlines - Passengers carried 2017
“NATS has a duty to ensure commercial aircraft can fly safely through UK airspace. Adding extra controllers to the Essex airspace will not make a difference. Additional aircraft cannot fly in that area safely without redesigning the airspace which requires consultation with those affected on the ground,” she said.
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