Record-breaking number of flights in UK airspace in one day

Planes on the runway at London's Heathrow Arport.
Planes on the runway at London's Heathrow Arport. Copyright Flickr/Mike McBey
Copyright Flickr/Mike McBey
By Alice Tidey
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About 9,000 planes were scheduled to travel in the UK airspace on Friday, a record.


A record-breaking 9,000 flights are expected to travel in the UK airspace in Friday, the country’s air traffic controller announced.

The figure is significantly higher than the 7,000 flights usually seen on a normal day. The previous record of 8,854 flights was established on May 25 last year.

The hike is due to a correlation of events which include the May Day bank holiday and school half-term in the UK, the Cannes Film Festival in France and the Monaco Grand Prix, according to air traffic controller NATS.

The finals of the Europa League and of the Champions League, to be held next week in Baku and Madrid respectively are also resulting in a substantial increase in charter and private jet flights.

“We knew this period was going to be busy and so have been planning alongside the airlines and airports for a number of months,” Wendy Howard-Allen, head of service performance at NATS, said in a statement.

“We put a number of measures in place to optimise the use of our airspace so we can handle these extra flights while keeping delay to a minimum,” she added.

But the record could be short-standing, with similar levels expected next week, which raises concerns about pollution and the industry’s contribution to global warming.

"Record-breaking traffic is not unexpected especially around holiday breaks and multiple sports events. But the point is that this growth is out of control," Bill Hemmings, aviation director at the Transport & Environment research group, told Euronews.

"Aviation is on track to derail Europe’s Paris Agreement commitment to cut emissions. Where are the regulators? Aviation’s tax breaks must be abolished and effective mitigation policies put in place. Strengthen the aviation ETS (Emission Trading System). Tax airlines' kerosene. Reject carbon offsetting now — it’s a dead-end," he added.

The Brussels-based research group found in April that while emission-trading sectors reduced their emissions last year, aviation is bucking the trend.

Airlines’ emission grew 4.9% in 2018 and 26.3% over the past five years while Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair was found to be Europe’s tenth biggest polluter, a first for a company that doesn’t run coal-fired plants.

Heathrow, Britain's busiest airport, also announced on Friday that it will introduce the world’s first airport Ultra Low Emission Zone in 2022 to "protect local air quality, reduce congestion and tackle emissions."

Private cars could, therefore, be charged for entering car parks or drop-off areas at any of Heathrow’s terminals. Taxis and private hire vehicles are expected to start being charged in 2026 when a new runway is scheduled to open.

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