Sydney airport was thrown into chaos on the first day of the NSW school holidays after a technical problem grounded all departing flights.
Hundreds of passengers were affected after power in the traffic systems operations went down about 5am on Monday.
One passenger in a plane delayed on the tarmac said the captain had told them air traffic control was using manual systems to dispatch planes, which meant only about 15 could leave every hour, compared with the normal 80.
“All flights at Sydney Airport are currently grounded until further notice due to an Air Traffic Control issue,” a Virgin Australia spokeswoman said.
The airline said it would try to get all of its passengers on their way as quickly at it could after the problem was fixed.
“We will be contacting those guests who may be impacted but we encourage all guests to check the flight status page,” the spokeswoman said.
Airservices Australia, which manages airport traffice control, confirmed only that there was an “issue”.
“At this stage we do have a confirmed technical issue at Sydney which we are trying to rectify. We are also managing flights safely,” Air Services Australia spokeswoman, Sarah Fulton said.
Domestic passengers at the airport tweeted photos of a departures board with flight status reading “delayed – due ATC radar failure”.
Sydney airport urged travellers to be patient.
“Flights are delayed due to an @airservices system issue. Please check with your airline for flight status. Thanks for your patience”, the airport tweeted.
The knock-on affects were felt in Melbourne, where school holidays were also beginning. Planes due to fly from Melbourne to Sydney remained on the tarmac and delays were expected throughout the day, a Melbourne airport spokesman said.