Looking for answers: Passengers enquire about their options with Virgin staff. Photo: Steve Lunam
A computer network crash disabled Virgin Australia's ticketing system tonight and forced it to cancel a number of domestic flights and send passengers home at airports around Australia.
Virgin's ticketing system went down about 7:30 pm due to what the airline has described as a telecommunications network failure. As at 9:15pm the system was back online.
But a number of Virgin passengers said their planes remained on the tarmac at Sydney Airport more than two hours after they had landed, because their planes had not been allocated a gate due to the ticketing problems.
Some planes began disembarking about 9:45 pm but at 11:30 pm on Friday night several remained on the runway.
David Simpson, who caught the 6:30 pm flight from Melbourne, said his plane was still on the Sydney Airport runway at 10 pm. "Pilot [just] gave his message and said 'we look forward to having you on your next flight' quite a laugh in the cabin," he said.
The captain of a Virgin flight to Sydney from Perth made an announcement to passengers stuck on the runway about 10:15 pm: "This is way beyond our control at the moment. The ground staff are working absolutely furiously to try and clear the [landing] bays and get aircraft in as they’re all landing one after the other to beat the [airport's 11 pm] curfew".
The Sydney Airport website shows four Virgin flights have been cancelled.
Virgin has confirmed that customers have been offered new flights and interstate customers will be provided with accommodation vouchers. But customers have told smh.com.au they have received no information about when these flights will be available and are facing a wait of more than an hour on the airline's customer service hotline.
A number of other flights had their departure times changed: smh.com.au understands Virgin Australia managers have held crisis talks to resolve the logjam and determine which flights would take off when the check-in system came back online.
Virgin passenger Chris Binney was scheduled to catch a 7:30pm flight from Sydney to his home in Melbourne.
Despite having successfully checked in before the crash, he was told, via an announcement at the departure lounge, that his flight had been canceled.
"They said the issues with the computers were still ongoing and unlikely to be resolved tonight and, if you live in Sydney, to go home,’’ Mr Binney said.
Virgin said it is investigating the cause of the problem.
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