As low-cost fares are so prevalent these days, it can be easy to take air travel for granted. From the moment we gasp with excitement that a return flight to Barcelona costs just £30; all we are really concerned about is getting there eating tapas on La Rambla.
However, new research has revealed how busy the skies are getting above the UK with experts warning that if new measures are not implemented it could result in an increase in delays and cancellations. Air traffic controllers across the country were braced for UK airspace’s busiest ever day on Friday (July 21st) as they expected to handle over 8,800 flights.
Millions of passengers were jetting off as it marked the beginning of the summer school holidays with the travel association Abta estimating a record 2.4 million UK holidaymakers headed overseas. London was naturally the busiest area of the country with 500,000 and 335,000 passengers departing from Heathrow and Gatwick respectively.
Abta stated that Spain still dominates the destinations of choice for British holidaymakers. Old favourites like the Balearic and Canary Islands still remain a huge draw while the likes of Portugal, Greece and Italy have also retained strong bookings. Those going further afield tend to opt for Cuba, Jamaica, Mexico and Florida for their summer break.
As air travel is more accessible than ever before, the BBC reports there has been a significant uptake in the number of flights crossing UK airspace. Air traffic controllers expect to handle 770,000 flights over the course of summer, an increase of 40,000 on the previous year.
Jamie Hutchison, a director at the UK’s National Air Traffic Control Services (NATS), said: “We work very closely with our airline and airport customers in the run up to the summer to ensure we have the right planning and resources in place to get people away safely for a well-earned holiday. It’s our busiest time of year and traffic growth is outpacing forecasts year-on-year.
“In the last few weeks we have already safely managed record-breaking daily traffic levels, but the ageing design of UK airspace means we will soon reach the limits of what can be managed without delays rising significantly.”
While NATS is currently investing over £600 million on new technology to increase capacity, it has called on the government to assist in redesigning flight paths and air routes. Mr Hutchison added that while traffic growth provides a boost to the economy and offers increased choice to passengers, it needs to be properly to avoid a rise in delays.