THERE were delays in at least 14 flights between Majorcan and Ibizan airports and the United Kingdom, following a computer glitch at the air traffic control centre in the UK yesterday morning. In Majorca, AENA (Spanish Airport Authority) sources said that five flights between Son Sant Joan and the United Kingdom suffered “significant delays.” One was a flight from Manchester which landed two hours later than scheduled, which in turn delayed its return flight. The other flights were heading for Teeside, Liverpool and London, the delays ranging from 45 minutes to two hours. Nine departures from Ibiza airport suffered delays averaging an hour.
No delays were reported on flights to or from Mahon airport in Minorca.
It was a different story in the UK, where thousands of passengers faced delays and planes were grounded across the country.
National Air Traffic Services (NATS) said take-offs had been restricted, prompting widespread delays.
A spokeswoman said staff were working with airports to clear the backlog and that safety was unaffected. But it was thought that an unrelated fault at another air traffic control centre in Holland could exacerbate the problems. Problems started when NATS' Flight Data Processing (FDP) system, based at West Drayton, went down.
The system produces paper slips which tell air traffic controllers each invididual aircraft's height, route, destination and contact information, allowing them to direct the planes correctly. When it is not working, controllers have to produce these forms by hand, which is slower so it can cause delays.
Although the FDP system was restored within 20 minutes, by that time, hundreds of planes at airports across the UK had been grounded.
The spokeswoman said yesterday it was too early to tell whether the problem was caused by the same fault that saw hun- Delays ranged from 45 minutes to two hours dreds of flights delayed in June 2004.
Ian Hall, NATS' director of operations, said “we sincerely apologise to those who have been inconvenienced. We have taken every step to avoid problems, but are aware that in maintaining ageing and complex systems, we could experience difficulties.” NATS plans to introduce a new FDP system as part of its £1 billion modernisation programme.
Flight delays are nothing new at Son Sant Joan airport, but the culprit in the busiest months of the summer is usually the French air traffic controllers staging a work to rule.


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