Low Cost & Regional

O’Leary on NATS: ‘We told them… We won’t be cancelling flights’

photo_camera Michael O'Leary

Ryanair’s outspoken boss Michael O’Leary  has decried the UK’s air traffic control system (NATS) as unfit for purpose, following the news that Gatwick Airport has asked airlines to cancel flights due to short staffing in the control tower.

“Gatwick Airport contacted us this week and asked us if we wouldn’t mind cancelling flights, in light of a recent Covid outbreak where apparently 30% of staff have come down with it, leaving the remaining 70% apparently unable to cope with the volume of flights,” O’Leary told the reporters.

“We politely told them to —- off. We won’t be cancelling flights”

He went on to say that it was his opinion that the problem at NATS was due to ‘the type of short staffing and mismanagement we’ve come to expect from [NATS chairman] Martin Rolfe’.

READ: Ryanair boss calls for NATS CEO to resign over fresh air traffic chaos

Calling once again for Rolfe to be sacked, O’Leary then read through a list of the NATS executive team where he made the point that oversight of the organisation was made up mostly of ex-EON (a privatised UK utility company) and decorated members of the British establishment who had previously had ‘oversight’ of various government departments.

READ: World Aviation Festival: Willie Walsh slams NATS outage report as ‘just rubbish’

“Those of you who investigated NATS collapse on the 28-29 of August will know that when the system collapsed, the back up system was running on the same computer so, guess what, that collapsed and the maintenance engineers who were employed to restore the system weren’t onsite because they were ‘working remotely’“.

“It is redolent of the kind of mismanagement you get from CBE’s, ex-CAA, bewildered Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Defence punters sitting on the board. All they seem to be able to do is double Mr. Rolfe’s remuneration for his poor performance”, O’Leary told the stunned room.

Despite numerous problems at NATS including a brief computer outage causing a week of disruption and various staffing issues, O’Leary pointed out that Mr Rolfe’s pay had increased from £700k to £1.2m in a year, despite the organisation having lost around £27m in 2022.

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