Today is expected to be the busiest day in history for Britain’s skies – with 8,800 planes to be handled by air traffic controllers over the next 24 hours.
The daily aviation record comes at the start of what is set to be a record summer season for flights.
Some 770,000 planes are due to fly through UK airspace from June to August – 40,000 more than the same time last year.
In total 2.45 million flights soared through UK skies in 2016.
Jamie Hutchison, the director of the National Air Traffic Service (NATS) control base in Swanwick, warned the “ageing design of UK airspace” has brought the UK to the limit of its capacity for flights.
Mr Hutchison said that today’s expected record has not surprised air traffic controllers, who start planning for flights more than a year in advance.
“We work very closely with our airline and airport customers in the run-up to the summer to ensure we have the right planning and resources in place to get people away safely for a well-earned holiday,” he said.
“It’s our busiest time of year and traffic growth is outpacing forecasts year-on-year.
“In the last few weeks we have already safely managed record-breaking daily traffic levels, but the ageing design of UK airspace means we will soon reach the limits of what can be managed without delays rising significantly.”
Image: A record 770,000 planes are expected to fill the UK’s skies this summer
He told Sky News the UK’s airspace “was never designed to accommodate the levels of traffic we’re seeing today”.
As the skies get more crowded, the Government launched its planned aviation strategy to deal with the next 30 years and beyond.
The public is being asked their views on doorstep luggage collection services and town centre check-in desks for passengers flying from British airports.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “As a global, trading nation we want to build on the great industry we have today and create opportunities for people up and down the country.
“Our new aviation strategy will look beyond the new runway at Heathrow and sets out a comprehensive long-term plan for UK aviation. It will support jobs and economic growth across the whole of the UK.”
Image: Planes queue to take off on the Southern runway at Heathrow Airport
As part of the strategy, a £1bn investment to double the size of Manchester Airport’s Terminal 2 was announced.
Charlie Cornish, the chief executive of Manchester Airports Group, described the investment as a “significant moment” demonstrating “the confidence that we have in the long-term future of both the North and the UK economy”.
Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald said: “Today’s warning from NATS is yet another example of the Government’s failure to act and comes as uncertainty over Brexit is threatening the UK aviation industry.
“The Government must listen to what NATS and the industry more broadly are warning and take action to protect and modernise UK airspace.”