Computer Glitch in France Delays Hundreds of Flights

By The Associated Press

PARIS—A computer breakdown briefly disrupted all air traffic in France and caused a cascade of delayed flights in multiple countries on Sep. 1, the last day of European summer holidays.

Hundreds of flights were delayed at airports from Britain to Morocco and beyond. Hours after the problem with a French automatic flight plan system was fixed, schedules still lagged elsewhere.

A spokesman for French civil aviation authority DGAC said the cause of the morning breakdown was being investigated.

The problem had “no impact on flight security” and was fixed before midday, allowing traffic to resume, the spokesman said. He wasn’t authorized to be publicly named under the authority’s rules.

But DGAC temporarily halted all air traffic under French control, which included planes flying over France. The directive covered planes going in and out of Paris from Charles de Gaulle, one of Europe’s busiest airports.

Passengers traveling from neighboring countries such as Britain were particularly hard-hit as air traffic authorities struggled to redirect flights through Europe’s crowded air space.

British Airways said in a statement, “We do expect disruption to some of our flights to France and Spain, as well as services flying over those countries.” It offered free ticket exchanges to anyone traveling to France, Spain, Italy, or Portugal.

British Airways Plane
British Airways planes parked at Heathrow Airport in London on Jan. 10, 2017. (Frank Augstein/AP Photo)

As he waited to take off for Paris from the Moroccan city of Casablanca, a Royal Air Maroc pilot described the breakdown as “exceptional.” After a confusing delay, his flight was then rerouted to Milan.

British Airways Computer Problem Strands 20,000

In a similar incident earlier this month, British Airways canceled more than 100 flights to and from London airports and delayed many others after its check-in systems were hit by computer problems, stranding about 20,000 passengers.

The airline said on Aug. 7 that it had resolved a “temporary systems issue” that caused delays and cancellations for short-haul flights from Heathrow, Gatwick and London City airports for much of the day.

BA canceled 117 flights due to operate to or from Heathrow and 10 Gatwick flights. More than 300 other flights were delayed.

“We apologize to all our customers caught up in the disruption, and appreciate how frustrating their experience has been,” BA said in a statement.

The incident is the latest bout of tech trouble to hit the airline. In May 2017, tens of thousands of passengers were stranded when a global computer failure grounded hundreds of British Airways flights over three days. BA passengers were also hit with severe delays in July and September 2016 because of problems with the airline’s online check-in systems.