Why Passengers Suffered Huge Delays At Australian Airports Yesterday

Nature and technology combined forces yesterday to cause extensive delays at many Australian airports, with Sydney Airport bearing the brunt of it. Smoke from weeks of severe bushfires, a problem with Australian immigration’s IT, and a breakdown of Jetstar’s check-in IT meant it was a bad day all round to be taking to the skies in Australia.

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Australian airports, particularly Sydney Airport, was hit hard by a trio of issues yesterday. Photo: James D Morgan / Qantas.

Smoky haze blankets Sydney

Weeks of severe bushfires around NSW, including a massive firefront on Sydney’s outskirts has meant much of Australia’s south-east has been shrouded in a smoky haze for the last month. In the last few days, this has intensified around Sydney, yesterday playing havoc with the city’s infrastructure as visibility dropped and smoke alarms were set off, including at Sydney Airport.

The airport was operating under low visibility conditions between 11:00 and 14:00 yesterday causing delays of up to 30 minutes.

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Smoke from bushfires that cut visibility was just one issue yesterday. Photo: Nick D via Wikimedia Commons

Immigrations’ passenger processing IT went down

Also yesterday morning there was an outage with Australia’s Border Force Advanced Passenger Processing (APP)  at international airports, causing additional delays. Advanced Passenger Processing clear passengers to either arrive or depart and verifies travel documents. 

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A Sydney Airport spokesperson was quoted in Traveller as saying;

“International passenger check-ins are being delayed between approximately 30 and 60 minutes due to an outage in the processing system airlines use to check-in passengers. Some airlines have intermittent access to the system, with others manually checking in passengers.”

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The issue with Border Force’s APP affected not only international passengers arriving and departing from Sydney, but also at other international airports such as Melbourne, Brisbane, Darwin, and Perth.

Jetstar’s check-in IT also shut down

Finally, and the most severe issue was a problem with Jetstar’s check-in technology. In a nutshell, it wasn’t working yesterday morning. Jetstar had issues checking in passengers between 05:30 and 10:30 at all their airports around the country. Twenty Jetstar flights were cancelled and 40 were delayed. This comes just days before the first of a series of pilot strikes hit the low-cost carrier.

While some passengers were sanguine about the turn of events yesterday, others were less so. Some took to social media to vent their frustrations. According to one post, Jetstar cancelled three flights out of the Sunshine Coast, no reason being given for the first cancellation, IT blamed for the second cancellation and smoke for the third cancellation.

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There were long queues yesterday morning at Australian airports. Photo: Andrew Curran / Simple Flying.

Jetstar said they were on top of their IT problems by lunchtime yesterday but the morning’s delays and cancellations had rolling effects throughout the day as the airline tried to re-accommodate thousands of impacted passengers.

According to another social media posting, things were still messy at Sydney Airport last night.

“Absolute chaos at Sydney airport tonight .., staff unaware of what to tell people on cancelled flights …. call CENTRE not picking up …. not good enough Jetstar

Today, Wednesday, December 11, 2019, things seem to be running relatively smoothly at Sydney Airport. A check of the airport’s website reveals most flights are departing on or near time. Visibility around the Sydney metropolitan area remains extremely poor, suggesting until some rain puts those fires out and some decent wind flushes the haze offshore, more delays are inevitable at Sydney Airport over the next few days.

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