Flights briefly suspended at London airport after runway damaged during heat wave

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A sign reading “Welcome to Luton” is seen from an aircraft on arrival to Gatwick Airport, London, Britain, May 23, 2022.
Tom Nicholson | Reuters

Extreme heat in the U.K. on Monday caused runway damage and disrupted military and civilian flying, airport officials said.

A heat wave has engulfed much of Western Europe, with temperatures in London forecast to rise to about 100 degrees Fahrenheit on Monday and possibly higher on Tuesday before breaking midweek. The aviation industry is wrestling with the effects on infrastructure of extreme weather including storms, floods and high temperatures.

“Following today’s high temperatures, a surface defect was identified on the runway,” representatives for the London Luton Airport said in a statement. “Engineers were called immediately to site and repair works are currently in progress to resume operations as quickly as possible. We would like to apologise for the inconvenience caused.”

The airport is used by budget carriers including easyJet, Ryanair and Wizzair.

At Brize Norton Royal Air Force base in Oxfordshire, flying was halted after a similar report of runway damage.

“During this period of extreme temperature flight safety remains our top priority, so aircraft are using alternative airfields in line with a long established plan,” an RAF spokesperson said. “This means there is no impact on RAF operations.” 

The RAF didn’t specify why it suspended flights, but a spokesperson said “the runway has not melted” as early media reports indicated.

Heathrow Airport, the country’s largest, said it is monitoring the impact of the heat and is so far operating normally. Gatwick Airport outside London also said it has not identified any runway problems due to heat.

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