London airspace restricted by air traffic control 'technical problem'
A screen capture of planefinder.net's airspice over London.
LONDON (NBC News) - Airspace over London was restricted following a computer failure on Friday that triggered chaos at the British capital's five airports.
A Heathrow Airport spokesman said that "a technical problem" was to blame and that flights were "experiencing delays." A spokesman for Gatwick Airport told NBC News that although departures from the site were on hold, planes were continuing to land as usual.
NATS, which provides air-traffic control services in the U.K., clarified an earlier statement by European authorities who had said that airspace over the city would be closed until 7 p.m. (2 p.m. ET). NATS said there had been no closure but that capacity had been "restricted in order to manage the situation."
At Heathrow, passengers on United Flight 941 to Newark were told about the computer problem as they boarded at 3:30 p.m. local time (10:30 a.m. ET). United gate staff said the plane would be loaded with passengers and head toward a runway in the hopes that the computer problem could be fixed. Most passengers at Heathrow seemed unaware of the issue and no further mention was made during normal boarding.
Manchester airport in northern England said it was unaffected and was ready to accept any diverted flights, Reuters reported.
Eurocontrol, the international organization overseeing air traffic control in Europe, had initially announced that no aircraft would be accepted in the skies over London for a three-and-a-half hour period.