Thousands of easyJet passengers faced long delays and flight cancellations after a Europe-wide failure of the airline’s computer system. Queues at its main bases built up rapidly as ground staff struggled to check in passengers’ bags manually.
By 5.30pm, delays at Gatwick - the airline’s busiest airport - were running at around two hours. At least 14 flights were cancelled as the airline tried to deal with the backlog.
Aircraft stands were blocked by flights that were stuck on the ground awaiting passengers and baggage. As a result, arriving aircraft were prevented from reaching their appointed stands. To complicate matters, passengers who had been unable to check in because of the online shutdown were obliged to join the queue to be processed.
Public address announcements by easyJet said it was experiencing “a Europe-wide system failure”. The airline said: “We are using a manual process in airports and therefore queue waiting times may be longer than normal.”
Contrary to European regulations, passengers whose flights were cancelled were told to find hotels themselves and to try to rebook flights once the website was working.
Delays at easyJet’s other main UK bases, including Luton, Manchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow, were running at 1-2 hours.
EasyJet, which is Britain’s biggest airline by passenger numbers, stands to lose heavily as a result of the shutdown. The airline is obliged to meet accommodation and meal costs of stranded passengers. In addition, anyone whose flight is cancelled or delayed by three hours or more is entitled to a minimum €250 of compensation.
On a typical day easyJet’s reservations system will take in £1.25 million worth of bookings – with the highest fares charged for immediate departures. The airline is currently staging a sale of its winter flights, which means that more bookings than normal would be expected.
Additional research by Amy Lewin