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NEWS Last modified on July 24, 2015

UK expecting busiest day of the year as holiday season begins

With schools closing for the summer, the UK's air traffic controllers are bracing themselves for their busiest day of the year today.

Air navigation service provider, NATS, is predicting that its controllers will handle more than 8,000 flights across Britain's skies today as the great summer holiday getaway begins in earnest.

Routes to all the usual holiday destinations in Spain, the Canaries and southern Europe are expected to be busy and NATS has been preparing for weeks to ensure flights get away safely and with the minimum delay.

July is always a busy month for air traffic with 230,000 flights recorded in July 2014, around 1,000 more a day compared to the usual monthly average.

Preparation and planning for big peaks in demand begins months in advance with NATS analysing airline schedules and airport capacity to make sure it has the resources to safely handle the expected demand.

That plan is then constantly tweaked and updated.

NATS manages the UK’s busy airspace from its two air traffic control centres at Prestwick, Ayrshire and Swanwick, Hampshire.

Air traffic controllers at Swanwick have responsibility for the airspace over most of England and Wales, including the busy London airports where in excess of 3,500 flights take-off and land from just six runways.

Last year NATS choreographed safe journeys for a total of 2.2 million flights, an increase of 2.5% on the year before.

Yet despite the growing demand to fly, 99.8% of those flights experienced no air traffic control delays at all.

Watch NATS' video to hear more about what it looks like inside the busiest control room.


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Joe Bates

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