Air traffic

Not enough air traffic controllers on the island

In recent weeks, disruptions at UK airports and ports have become commonplace.

Thousands of people traveling abroad for the Easter holidays have faced long queues, delays and cancellations.

Long waits at security have particularly plagued Manchester Airport.

Here on the island, various flights have been delayed and canceled due to airline issues, technical issues and staff shortages at Ronaldsway.

A shortage of air traffic controllers has just been confirmed by the Minister for Infrastructure.

On Friday April 8, an Easyjet service to London Gatwick was forced to wait on the tarmac for an hour as air traffic control was closed.

Tim Crookall MHK said: ‘Air traffic controllers are legally required to take a break from time to time, and Easyjet knew what time they had to be here, and I think they were late for some reason – I don’t blame anyone on but that’s what happened.

“It’s one of those issues where, it’s our fault because we don’t have enough staff.”

He added: “But actually Easyjet knew what time they had to be and what time they could go out.”

“We are doing our part and while we try to help where we can, the [staff] have to take a break and legally we cannot extend their hours even by 10 minutes just to help them.

As for the wider staffing issue, Mr Crookall said it was being looked at.

He said: ‘We currently have a staffing issue and due to the lack of training facilities over the last two years due to Covid we have not been able to train staff.

“So we’re getting there slowly, but it’s going to take us time.

“It’s not just here, it’s everywhere. Airports across, to Manchester and Liverpool – we are not alone in this.

Along with island-based staff shortages, airlines have also been hit by Covid-related staff absences, with a total of more than 100 daily flights canceled by EasyJet and British Airways.

The disruption comes as passenger numbers surge in the UK and the Channel Islands after pandemic restrictions eased.

In Jersey, the government said air passenger numbers were recovering better after the pandemic than UK airports.

A total of 116,182 passengers passed through the airport in the first two months of this year, compared to 195,261 during the same period in 2020, which is around 60% of pre-pandemic levels.

Here on the Isle of Man, 60,790 passengers passed through Ronaldsway in the first two months of this year, up from 2,493 in the same period of 2021.

In January 2021, 1,379 passengers passed through the airport compared to 25,630 this year. In February 2021, there were 1,113 against 35,160 this year.

In March 2021, 1,786 passengers traveled, compared to 43,393 last month.

With the noticeable increase in passenger numbers and the further increase expected by summer, Mr Crookall said the airport was aiming to address staffing issues as soon as possible.