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This note gives information about the structure of National Air Traffic Services (NATS).

NATS provides air traffic navigation services to aircraft flying through UK controlled airspace and at several UK and international airports, moving over 6,000 flights daily.

UK airspace contains a network of corridors, or airways. These are usually ten miles wide and reach up to a height of 24,000 feet from a base of between 5,000 and 7,000 feet. They mainly link busy areas of airspace known as terminal control areas, which are normally above major airports. At a lower level, control zones are established around each airport. The area above 24,500 feet is known as upper airspace. All of these airways are designated “controlled airspace”. Aircraft fly in them under the supervision of air traffic controllers and pilots are required to file a flight plan for each journey, containing details such as destination, route, timing and height.

NATS was part-privatised in 2001 by the Labour Government. NATS is a public private partnership between the Airline Group, a consortium of seven airlines, which holds 42%, NATS staff who hold 5%, UK airport operator BAA Limited with 4%, and the government which holds 49%, and a golden share.

The successes of NATS under this structure led the Labour Government to look at whether to sell the government’s remaining shareholding in the company. These proposals were taken up by the Coalition Government after May 2010. However, after lengthy consideration the government announced on 10 July 2012 that it would not proceed with a sale of its shares at this time.

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