July 10, 2018 / 12:08 PM / 10 months ago

Britain's NATS disputes Ryanair complaints of air traffic control staff shortages

DUBLIN, July 10 (Reuters) - Britain’s main air traffic control provider has disputed complaints by Europe’s largest low-cost carrier Ryanair that UK air traffic control contributed to flight delays at the airline on Sunday and Tuesday.

Ryanair has said air traffic control strikes in France and air traffic control staff shortages in Spain, Germany and the Britain caused a surge in flight delays and cancellations this year.

Ryanair has taken to providing daily updates on Twitter of how many flight delays are down to ATC, reporting that “French, German, Spanish and UK ATC staff shortages caused delays to over 1,000 ... flights” on Sunday.

On Tuesday morning it said ATC staff shortages in France, Germany and Britain had caused 82 delays.

But Britain’s national air traffic control provider NATS has now retaliated with Twitter posts of its own.

“There were actually no ATC staffing delays in the whole of the UK yesterday,” it said on Monday. “There are no staffing delays anywhere in the UK this morning,” it said on Tuesday in response to Ryanair’s latest ATC tweet.

A spokeswoman for NATS said they was aware there were strikes in France and staff shortages in Germany, but they wanted to make clear that this was not the case in Britain.

In response, Ryanair said British and German ATC providers were not “rostering enough ATC staff to cater for the number of flights that are scheduled to operate.”

A Ryanair spokesman also said it has not experienced any flight delays or cancellation due to a shortage of flight staff.

Eurocontrol said last month that it expects 14.3 million minutes of delay for 2018, 53 percent more than in 2017 because of strikes, capacity/staffing shortages and weather.

Ryanair was forced to cancel thousands of flights last year after punctuality rates collapsed due to a shortage of standby pilots. The airline says it has since resolved the issue, but is facing several strikes from staff demanding improved conditions.

Reporting by Conor Humphries Additional reporting by Victoria Bryan in Berlin Editing by Edmund Blair

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