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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 September 2018

UK airspace at its 'limit' as holidaymakers enjoy their summer holidays

A record 770,000 flights will enter UK airspace over the summer, 40,000 more than last year

The United Kingdom faced a record number of flights, as shown in this still of planes flying in and out of the country this afternoon (FLIGHT RADAR)
The United Kingdom faced a record number of flights, as shown in this still of planes flying in and out of the country this afternoon (FLIGHT RADAR)

UK air traffic controllers are dealing with their busiest ever day as British holidaymakers head overseas, amid warnings that planes are running out of airspace.

National Air Traffic Services (Nats) is predicting a record 8,800 flights today as many schools break up for the summer holidays. This new record is expected to be broken again later this summer.

Air traffic controllers say they are close to their limit as record 2.4 million UK holidaymakers head abroad this summer and tourists looking to make the most of the weak pound flock to the country.

A record 770,000 flights will enter UK airspace over the summer, 40,000 more than last year, the BBC reported.

Nats warned that the current system for air traffic control, designed in the 1960s, was no longer fit for purpose. It urged the government to push through modernisation or face heavy delays to air travel in the future.

Martin Rolfe, chief executive of Nats, told the BBC this morning: “We are approaching the limit of what the skies can handle with the airspace that we have in place. The routes we have in place are exceptionally busy and we have to reroute on busy days so flights get there on time.”

By 2030 there will be 3,100 days’ worth of flight delays – 50 times the amount seen in 2015, along with 8,000 flight cancellations a year if airspace remains unchanged, according to a UK-wide forecast from the British government.

NATS is currently spending in excess of £600m on new technology to help boost capacity – including an advanced new digital control system at London City Airport – but argues that investment must be accompanied by a redesign of the UK’s network of flight paths and air routes, changes that will require government support.

The government has launched a consultation looking at the possibility of doorstep luggage collection services and town centre check-in desks to speed up boarding at airports. The measures are already used in Hong Kong and Japan.

Ambitious expansion plans for several UK airports are underway, including the contentious third runway at Heathrow and a £1bn project to double the size of Manchester airport's Terminal.

Airports in the south-east are expecting a very busy weekend with more than 500,000 passengers expected to depart from Heathrow, 335,000 from Gatwick, 136,000 from Stansted and 85,000 from Luton.

The number of foreign visitors in the UK who have been tempted by the weaker pound in Brexit Britain has grown at the fastest pace since at least 2012 at the start of the year.

There were 8.3m overseas visits to the UK in the three months to March, up 9.9 per cent compared to the same period in 2016. Sterling is down over 13 per cent against the dollar since June 24 last year.

British holidaymakers and visitors from abroad are also increasingly looking to holiday in UK beauty sports.

The Hebridean island of Skye is currently overwhelmed by the massive influx of tourists after being featured in blockbusters including The BFG and visits from celebrities such as rapper Kanye West and singer Harry Styles.

Its population of 10,000 has soared to more than 60,000 in recent weeks, putting pressure on the island’s infrastructure and forcing visitors to sleep in their cars.

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