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15,000 flights delayed in Europe after ‘system failure’

BRUSSELS: Around 15,000 flights were delayed across the Europe following some ‘mechanical glitch’ in the air traffic management “Euro control” system.

The organization responsible for co-coordinating European air traffic said it has fixed an earlier fault which led to widespread flight delays on Tuesday.

The faulty system which was restarted at 19:00 GMT was only the second failure in 20 years, Euro control said – the last happened in 2001.

The unspecified problem was with the Enhanced Tactical Flow Management System, which helps to manage air traffic by comparing demand and capacity of different air traffic control sectors.

It manages up to 36,000 flights a day. Some 29,500 were scheduled on Tuesday when the fault occurred.

In a statement, the group said it “very much regrets the disruption that has been caused to passengers and airlines due to today’s outage. We have never had anything like this before,” a Eurocontrol spokesman told the AFP news agency. “Air traffic control itself was not directly affected, and the safety was not compromised at any time”.

When the system failed, Eurocontrol’s contingency plan for a failure in the system deliberately reduced the capacity of the entire European network by 10%. It also added what it calls “predetermined departure intervals” at major airports.

Earlier in the day, several European airports had warned passengers to expect delays, with Brussels Airport saying it was limited to just 10 departures every hour. Schiphol in Amsterdam, Helsinki, and Dublin airports also warned passengers about delays of varying lengths.

On Tuesday afternoon, Eurocontrol said its contingency plan would be in place for several hours, “until we are certain that sufficient data is in the system to allow it to operate completely correctly”.

It also asked airlines to resend any flight plans filed before 10:26 UTC, which it says were lost in the system failure.

Under EU law, passengers on delayed flights are usually entitled to compensation. But an exemption applies if the delay was caused by an “extraordinary circumstance” out of the airline’s control.

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