Summary of COVID-19 impact on UK ATSUs

The following is a summary of events across ATM within the UK since the outbreak of the coronavirus, and it has been compiled on 7/4/20 based on reports from various trade union representatives. The aim of this article is to give our members up and down the country access to as accurate and as timely a source of information that the Branch can produce during these troubling times. That said, whilst every effort has been made to make sure all data and information is correct, there may be (accidental) omissions or errors given the fast-moving nature of these events, and so this document is to be viewed with this in mind. Finally, it contains sensitive information, it is only to be viewed by Prospect members with access to the Branch website.

Traffic levels – UK general:

Traffic levels across the UK network are down somewhere in the region of 90%. At airfields this is wholly reflective, except for a few notable exceptions, for example Farnborough. Both second runways are closed at Manchester and Heathrow.

Closed ATSUs:

Barkston Heath

Middle Wallop (staff on H24 standby)

London City (discussions around furloughing underway, see NATS below)

Lydd (staff furloughed)


Western Radar (staff furloughed, see NATS below)

Wycombe (staff furloughed)

ATSUs operating on reduced hours:

Belfast City (already reduced around movement times, discussion on further reductions)

Birmingham (night closure)

Bournemouth (reduced daytime hours, closed weekends)

Bristol (night closure)

Cardiff (night closure including delegated function)

Exeter (open daytime and again in evening)

Edinburgh (H24 but terminal only open daytime hours)

Gatwick (zero rated 2200-1400 daily)

Norwich (reduced daytime hours)

Oxford (reduced daytime hours)

Southampton (open for 2 hours per day, staff on-call outwith these times)


Various NATS customers have asked for a reduction in contract price for the provision of air traffic services. On 7/4/20, Eurocontrol (which normally gathers en route charges across 41 European states and disburses them to ANSPs) announced the approval of an initial package that deferred payments of these en route charges for the early part of 2020, spread out over a period of the next 18 months. There are ongoing discussions surrounding a potential second package that might enable the sourcing of additional funding for ANSPs by Eurocontrol in the meantime. We will advise as soon as we have further concrete information.

Staffing impact:

Most non-operational staff who can undertake their task from home have been working from home for NATS for several weeks. NATS’ Corporate & Technical Centre (HQ) is effectively shut. Most operational staff (ATCOs, engineers, assistants etc.) are currently working at their respective units, although some are told to remain at home (e.g. ATSAs). All TATCs either now furloughed or in process to be.

23/3/2, new staffing measures agreed between Prospect and NATS management centrally, implemented in April 2020:

  • Operational staff to follow watch / core patterns and cease ‘spin’ shifts
  • New WP agreements in place to allow for fewer staff on-unit to carry out ATS and ancillary tasks, allowing for ‘surplus’ core watch members to be on-call for that shift
  • No impact on Ts & Cs
  • Local variations / clarifications, e.g. time allowed between on-call request and arriving at the workplace have been agreed separately

3/4/20, both NATS and Prospect (along with PCS) announced that the 2020 pay award would be deferred. The pay issued for the first three months of the year would not be clawed back. This is a deferral of the pay award until negotiations can take place later in the year, and all pay-related matters such as movement up pay scales continue as normal.

Both parties initially announced an agreement on the furloughing for following staff:

  • College TATCs
  • College instructors
  • Non-operational ATCOs (e.g. on projects)
  • ATCOs with particular circumstances (e.g. for shielding reasons)

7/4/20, this was further developed into a package that would include all operational staff, subject to operational requirements and in agreement with all trade union groups. Staff selected will receive full remuneration (with NATS topping-up the government cap).

Other ANSPs:

Across these airports, many TATCs and assistants have been asked to remain at home, or are subject to govt furlough scheme. The following are listed as airfields that have notable changes to, or impact on staffing.

Battersea Heliport: Rapid furloughing of all staff with little TU consultation. Staff furloughed on full remuneration for April, discussion later in month for May, current proposal is inline with govt scheme with no top-up.

Birmingham: Some staff furloughed (TATCs, non-Op ATCOs, admin), no operational ATCOs furloughed. Employer to top-up govt cap to 80% of salary. Staff working an on-call / standby pattern not dissimilar to NATS.

Bournemouth: Staff furlough including 12 operational ATCOs. ‘Sliding scale’ top-up scheme in place for what company pays staff above govt. 80% guarantee up to £2,500 (an example is that a fully-rated ATCO receiving 40% of normal pay). Staff remaining at work taking a 10% pay cut.

Edinburgh: Furloughing of 16 ATCOs using govt scheme, ANS topping-up pay above govt cap. Assistants furloughed as well as two ATCOs who were covering the assistant role due to sickness.

Exeter: No commercial movements. Company looking at ‘rotational’ furloughing of most staff including ATCOs. Remaining staff to take a 10% pay cue. Sliding scale being discussed as to company’ contribution to pay over the government cut-off above 80% up to £2,500.

Gatwick: Single position 1400-2200. No spin shifts, staff using TOIL. No ATCO furloughing, all either on standby or in training for system development. TATCs furloughed.

Highlands & Islands Airports (11 in total): Closed to scheduled commercial movements, open to emergency and lifeline flights, some open for mail flights. Reduced hours across units. HIAL ATCOs are government employees, not eligible for govt furlough scheme.

Humberside: Some furloughing of staff, remaining have taken 25% pay cut with revised working patterns.

Liverpool: Remains H24. Liverpool ATSU provides Liverpool tower & approach, as well as separate rating for Doncaster approach. Single valids have been issued furlough. Could be expanded to include Liverpool dual-rate ATCOs, leaving only ‘tri-rated’ ATCOs. ATCOs have already accepted a 20% reduction in working time in conjunction with a 20% pay cut. Amendments to sick pay also.

Norwich: Staff furlough including some operational ATCOs. ‘Sliding scale’ top-up scheme in place for what company pays staff above govt. 80% guarantee up to £2,500. Staff remaining at work taking a 10% pay cut.

Prestwick: Remains H24. TATCs furloughed on either 80%, or 100% and using 4 days of annual leave / month. No ATCO furlough.

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