An independent review has been ordered to look into an air traffic control fault after thousands of passengers suffered flight cancellations for the second day in a row.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said it was the worst incident of its kind in “nearly a decade” and announced an “independent review” will be carried out.

The issue started on Monday, when more than a quarter of flights at UK airports were cancelled.

ATC provider National Air Traffic Services (Nats) suffered what it described as a “technical issue” preventing it from automatically processing flight plans.

This resulted in flights to and from UK airports being restricted while the plans were checked manually.

Nats said at 3.15pm on Monday the problem was resolved, but disruption continued into Tuesday as many aircraft and crews were out of position.

Analysis of flight data websites by the PA news agency shows at least 281 flights – including departures and arrivals – were cancelled on Tuesday at the UK’s six busiest airports.

This consisted of 75 at Gatwick, 74 at Heathrow, 63 at Manchester, 28 at Stansted, 23 at Luton and 18 at Edinburgh.

Many other flights were significantly delayed.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told broadcasters: “I know people will be enormously frustrated by the disruption that’s impacting them.

“Thankfully things like this are rare and the issue itself was fixed in a matter of hours, but the disruption obviously is continuing and will last for a little while longer.

“The Transport Secretary is in constant dialogue with all the industry participants, he will be talking to airlines specifically later today and making sure that they support passengers to get home as quickly as possible.”

Transport Secretary Mark Harper told GB News: “This was a technical fault. We do not think this was a cybersecurity incident.

“And what will happen now with an incident of this magnitude is there will be an independent review.

“The Civil Aviation Authority will be putting together a report in the coming days, which obviously I will take a look at to see whether there are lessons to learn for the future, to see whether we can reduce the impact of this again.

“It’s nearly a decade since there was a significant issue like this.

“We want to make sure it doesn’t happen again, because of all the disruption that’s been caused to passengers across the country.”

An unprecedented ATC systems failure in December 2014 led to widespread disruption at airports.

In relation to the latest incident, Rob Bishton, interim chief executive at regulator the Civil Aviation Authority, said: “As part of our regulatory oversight of its activities, we continue to engage with Nats, and once its investigation is fully complete an incident report will be provided to the UK Civil Aviation Authority.