A software fault is to blame for grounding flights out of Sydney Airport and causing chaos among passengers on the first day of NSW school holidays.
The Monday morning radar failure not only caused chaos at Sydney’s domestic airport but caused flight interruptions across the nation.
The “air traffic control system failure” which hit about 5am on Monday resulted in the cancellation of some flights and delayed many others as thousands of passengers converged on the domestic terminal.
Airservices Australia, the nation’s air navigation service provider, ruled out the possibility the incident had been cyber-related, saying the fault was due to hardware failure.
“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,” it said in a statement on Monday.
The technical glitch was resolved by 9am, but the delays extended for hours after that for passengers.
“The issue has been addressed but the airport is not at normal capacity,” Airservices Australia spokeswoman Sarah Fulton told AAP soon after the glitch was resolved on Monday morning.
The backlog was due to be cleared by early afternoon but in the meantime passengers on the ground are still facing hours of delays.
For David Lethbridge the airport delays came on top of a nightmare battle to get home.
Scheduled to drive from Sydney to Corowa and then onto Melbourne on Sunday he and his wife were forced to turn back by bushfires on the Hume Highway.
“So we thought we would get a flight home to Melbourne instead, and now this has happened,” Mr Lethbridge told AAP while waiting in line.
Also caught in the lines was school teacher Trish Robbers, who was heading to Hervey Bay in Queensland for a holiday.
“I already knew about this from the news but my flight still said it was on time until 20 minutes ago,” Ms Robbers said.
“My six days may become five … if I wasn’t on holidays I would be frustrated,” she said.
Earlier on Monday, domestic passengers at the airport tweeted numerous photos of departures boards with flight status’ reading “delayed – due ATC radar failure”.
The Sydney chaos has had knock-on effects for the country and particularly for busy routes like Sydney-Melbourne and Sydney-Brisbane.
“If one airport sneezes the others will catch the cold because we’re all interconnected,” a Brisbane Airport Corporation spokeswoman told AAP.
An airport spokeswoman could not say how many services into and out of Brisbane had been affected but just before 1pm (AEST) many services due to arrive from Sydney were still being listed as delayed.
“These sorts of interruptions can impact on schedules for the rest of the day,” the spokeswoman said.
Melbourne Airport also confirmed likely delays throughout the day.