Airlines Get Airspace Priority For Olympics

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Scheduled flights will likely get priority over business aviation if weather or other factors disrupt normal air traffic during the 2012 London Olympics. The Financial Times says government regulators have determined that the country's private air traffic control provider National Air Traffic Services (NATS) already has the flexibility it needs to put airliners ahead of business aircraft without needing an official directive to do so. Officially, NATS operates under a policy of first come, first served, but in unusual circumstances can pick and choose which targets get the limited number of slots. NATS was non-committal on how it would handle those cases, telling the Financial Times only that it would run the airspace "as safely and efficiently as possible."

The country's major airlines have been pressuring the government for assurances that the big iron will get priority if weather or security events preclude normal operations. The government was able to sidestep direct involvement, at least for now. "NATS already have the power to be relatively pragmatic in relation to prioritisation of different flights. I'm pretty confident Nats would have the ability to deliver on what the airlines want," Transport Minister Theresa Villiers told the Financial Times. NetJets spokesman Mark Wilson rejected the notion of "simple prioritization" to cope with overtaxed airspace. Business aircraft have already been barred from Heathrow Airport for the Olympics, leaving surrounding airports to handle the influx of about 3,000 private aircraft during the Games.