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Anger builds as Aussie airports hit by systems outage

September 26, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Consumer anger is mounting after a computer systems glitch caused queues and major delays at Australian airports yesterday, the start of the school holidays so the worst possible day – and a major lobby group blamed outdated airport operating restrictions for making the delays even worse.

The infuriating outage, the second such problem in a week, struck during the seasonal school holiday upsurge in domestic air travel. It hit Sydney Airport, Australia’s busiest, at peak hour on Monday morning.

Delays fed through into the afternoon. International passengers arriving after flying for 23 hours or longer transferred to the domestic terminal to find their connecting flights delayed by hours.

Air Services Australia (ASA) blamed a “system software failure” in the flight planning system.

In a statement issued yesterday afternoon, ASA said: “The software fault failed to convert from night-shift operations to day-shift operations, consequently one air traffic control console was operational for the morning peak when in normal circumstances six to eight consoles are operating.”

Got that?

Queues built up rapidly at both the Virgin and Qantas counters in Sydney Airport, with the Qantas departure board listing flights to Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide “delayed due ATC Radar Failure”.

The tweet below by public service union leader Nadine Flood gives an idea:

Tourism & Transport Forum Australia (TTF) said that while computers might be behind the problem, “stringent and outdated operating restrictions” at Sydney Airport had worsened the chaos at Sydney Airport twice in the past week.

The TTF said the situation had to be fixed “to give airlines the flexibility to recover quickly when exceptional circumstances lead to mass delays and disruption to the national aviation network”.

The TTF is calling on the Federal Government to abolish the requirement to measure aircraft movements every 15 minutes, limiting total arrivals and departures to 20 every quarter hour, and to provide further operating flexibility by increasing movement caps from the current 80 to at least 85 per hour in exceptional circumstances to help airlines recover from major delays.

TTF chief executive Margy Osmond said that the current restrictions at Sydney Airport, placed airlines and passengers across Australia unnecessarily at the mercy of unforeseen events such as severe weather or technical glitches.

“With thousands and thousands of passengers yet again stranded at airports all over Australia this morning as a result of a major technical problem outside the airport’s control, the Federal Government and Opposition must together take a stand and commit to badly needed reform of the current constraints,” she said.

“Not only have these recent massive delays impacted flights along the eastern seaboard, but the problems have been compounded because Sydney’s movement restrictions prevent airlines from effectively recovering their schedules, causing knock-on delays to flights around the country.

“It’s time common sense prevailed. Australia can’t keep grinding to a halt every time there is a problem at Sydney Airport.

“There is a clear problem and an obvious solution, but airline industry, air travellers and freight customers are being held hostage by a lack of political will.”

“It is absolutely critical there is some flexibility built into Sydney Airport’s stringent operating restrictions so the entire eastern seaboard isn’t severely and unnecessarily impacted when issues arise,” Osmond said.

“We can’t keep having this debate every time there is an issue. It’s time for action on the crippling constraints that continue to shut down our national aviation network and impact the national economy.”

Written by Peter Needham

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