National Air Traffic Services (Nats) is warning airlines they will face reduced capacity when the New En Route Centre at Swanwick comes online in January 2002.
In his first interview since taking charge of the project, Colin Chisolm, deputy chief executive of Nats, told Computer Weekly, "We are already advising airlines that around the time of the transition there will be quite restricted flow rates [of aircraft entering and leaving UK air space]."
Chisolm is unapologetic about the restrictions. All new IT systems result in a productivity dip when they go live and he insisted Nats would "not compromise safety" to maintain the volume of services.
Nats is also warning that capacity will be stretched next summer when it begins training controllers on the new system at the London Air Traffic Control Centre.
Ironically, Chisholm's warning could be the best news yet for airlines and airline customers, as it is a clear sign that the Swanwick system will finally go live after years of delay.
Nats management is also convinced the system will deliver more capacity than predicted when it goes into operation. "I would expect to see increases in capacity of 5% or 6% a year once controllers are familiar with the system," said Chisholm.