UK’s ATC Charges On The Increase; Airlines Pushing Back


According to a Reuters report today (Oct. 26), airlines are pushing back at British aviation authorities for increases in charges for air traffic control services. NATS, the provider of air traffic control services in the UK, claims the increases are meant to recoup costs incurred by the COVID-19 pandemic.

NATS is under fire for a late-summer outage that caused thousands of flight cancellations and delays, costing airlines millions, according to Reuters, a British news service. According to Reuters, Airlines U.K., an industry trade-advocacy group, said NATS price increases “simply cannot be justified while it remains unclear what action will be taken to ensure airlines and their customers do not see a repeat of this disruption.”

Jonathan Hinkles, chief executive of British carrier Loganair, said in a LinkedIn post, “The expectation was that charges for 2024 would go back to normalized levels, plus inflation. Unfortunately, something’s gone badly wrong.” According to the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the new prices “would ensure quality of service and safety.”

But the consortium Airlines for Europe, which includes British Airways’ parent company and budget carrier Ryanair, told Reuters, “Raising prices after a monumental meltdown last summer is the very definition of rewarding failure.”

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Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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  1. Suggest a look at a map: the UK is but a small part of the European airspace. Important as it may be, NATS is not THE provider of ATC services in Europe (actually, it’s ANS, not only ATC). And neither NATS, nor the “British CAA” (actually, the UK CAA) can change charges for the whole of Europe.

    BTW, British Airways is parent of what? It’s actually part of the IAG group, together with Iberia.

    So the title is misleading and incorrect. The article contains errors. Other than that, it’s great.

  2. Yip, my understanding is that NATS was founded when the tories privatised ATC in the 1990s.
    At the time there were warnings that having a private company running a public service as a virtual monopoly (once contract awarded just about impossible for anyone else to take over without immense and deliberate disruption) was not a good thing, but do rabid right wingers ever listen….
    French ATC still very much state service — with all its accompanying problems / strikes but it mostly works.

  3. PS the one which always makes me laugh is that, along with other French government services, your first placement depends on where you finished in your year group.
    So the best of the year end up at little used, quiet and peaceful airports somewhere sunny, while the bottom end up in the grey cloud and rain of Paris….

    • That’s an oversimplification of things. The technical issue in the summer had nothing to do with the tories, Frenchies, privatisation or the Moon phase. NATS follows exactly the same model as it’s everywhere in the world and it’s actually a very good provider. Such problems have happened in other state-owned organisations too. The French strikes are anything but “mostly working”. They generate huge delays and disruptions, but it’s their right. There are other examples of both privatised (Italy, Canada) or public organisations (FAA). No fundamental difference between them. They’re all monopolies, as it can’t be any other way. They’re also closely scrutinised and highly regulated.

      The story with the placement is untrue. Paris is the busiest and most complex centre. It needs the best, not “the bottom”. And it’s mostly based on experience and seniority. Besides, the top of the class wouldn’t want to end up in a boring place, with a modest pay.

      • “There are other examples of both privatised (Italy, Canada) or public organisations (FAA). No fundamental difference between them.”

        Except that public organizations don’t charge “user fees” for using ATC services. No matter how “reasonable” a user fee may be, it’s still a fee.