UK skies are running out of space for record numbers of aircraft, air traffic controllers are warning.

The alert came as controllers are expecting to handle a record of more than 8,800 flights today – the busiest day of the year as the summer holiday getaway starts.

They have called for a drastic modernisation in the way aircraft are guided across UK airspace.

It coincides with the government launches a discussion on a new strategy to shape the UK’s aviation industry for the next 30 years.

Air traffic controllers expect to manage a record 770,000 flights in UK airspace over the summer – 40,000 more than last year.

But the ability of the UK’s National Air Traffic Control Service (Nats) to deal with this surge is being stretched to the limit, it is claimed.

Nats director Jamie Hutchison told the BBC: “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.”

The Department for Transport estimates that, if airspace management remains unchanged, there will be 3,100 days’ worth of flight delays by 2030 – that is 50 times the amount seen in 2015 – along with 8,000 flight cancellations a year.

Nats is introducing a new £600 million computer system known as iTec that could result in more flights and fewer delays.

But Nats operations director Juliet Kennedy said: “What is needed is a clear and stable UK policy that recognises how important our airspace is as a critical part of our national infrastructure.

“It is essential that we are able to balance the needs of airspace users with the environment and, of course, with the communities who experience aircraft noise.”