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Flights across Europe return to normal following IT system crash at Eurocontrol

Eurocontrol, the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation, has fixed an IT glitch that caused disruption to flights across Europe for several hours on Tuesday. 

Some 15,000 trips, about half of those in European airspace, were affected by the failure of the Enhanced Tactical Flow Management System (ETFMS), which took place at around 2000 BST on Tuesday.

It’s thought that 29,500 flights were scheduled over Eurocontrol managed airspace, out of a potential 36,000 that it is capable of overseeing at peak time.

The failure of ETFMS makes it harder for air traffic controllers across Europe to compare the demand for airspace in different parts of its jurisdiction, making it harder to take action to avoid an ‘air jam’.

Eurocontrol says it”very much regrets the disruption that has been caused to passengers and airlines due to today’s outage.”

“We have never had anything like this before,” it told AFP News.

When the ETFMS fails, the rest of the system compensates by reducing the number of planes per airport allowed to take off to just ten per hour, rolling out the restriction in stages.

It’s not currently clear if passengers will be able to claim compensation from travel insurers or airlines for the system fault. 

Airlines have been requested to refile any flight plans that were sent prior to 1126 BST yesterday morning as they were lost in the system crash.

Eurocontrol said that it would keep its contingency plans in place “until we are certain that sufficient data is in the system to allow it to operate completely correctly”, indicating that it could take several hours. It claimed out that “safety was not compromised at any time”.

In many ways, although the failure will be seen as a source of frustration to passengers on the ground, there’s a big picture perspective that shows that, in the event of a critical systems failure, Eurocontrol’s backup systems performed exactly as they should.

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