THOUSANDS of easyJet passengers were left facing lengthy delays and cancellations after a Europe-wide failure of the low-cost airline’s computer system.
A technical issue on the airline’s website meant travellers were unable to use the online check-in or booking facilities.
Gatwick airport experienced the worst disruption with 14 flights to and from the London airport cancelled.
Passengers at easyJet’s other main UK hubs – Edinburgh, Glasgow, Luton and Manchester – faced lengthy delays as they queued to check in at the airline’s desks at airports. It is not known how many flights were disrupted in total.
Many people were left stranded after missing flights or having them cancelled. They were urged to book into nearby hotels or face a night at airports.
EasyJet said passengers were not able to check in online for about seven hours yesterday after the airline’s central booking system crashed.
Delays stemmed from the length of time it took front-desk staff to manually check in passengers.
The system was functioning again last night, but many passengers continued to face problems.
James Fearnley, spokesman for easyJet, said: “We can confirm that the check-in systems are now working on the website and at airports although there may be still be delays on easyJet flights.”
He added: “Passengers booked on cancelled flights are eligible for compensation. We contacted the affected passengers to advise them that they could either re-book or claim a refund.
“We would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused and would like to thank passengers for their patience.”
Aircraft stands at several airports were subsequently blocked by flights that were stuck on the ground awaiting passengers to board, and in turn this meant that some arriving planes were prevented from docking as they did not have a space to park up.
Public address announcements by easyJet said it was experiencing “a Europe-wide system failure”.
Industry sources said that, as with other airlines, easyJet expects a high percentage of passengers to arrive at the airport already checked-in online.
As a result they would not normally have sufficient staff to deal with every traveller needing to check in, in order to board a flight.
Passengers from across the UK took to social networking sites to voice their frustration at the situation.
Keith Radcliffe, who said he was travelling from Nice to Edinburgh, wrote on the site: “Plane still on tarmac in Nice. Would be quicker getting off and walking to Edinburgh.”
Stephen Barrie added: “#easyJet do it again … 2 hours delay from Gatwick to Glasgow.”
EasyJet’s central booking system was up and running by about 6pm, although many evening flights had already been cancelled.
At Edinburgh airport, the final two flights of the day to Gatwick, at 8pm and 9:20pm, were cancelled as a result of the backlog of passengers and delays.
The 7:55pm from Glasgow to Gatwick was also cancelled, as was the 8:40pm from Aberdeen to Gatwick.
An Edinburgh airport spokesman said: “We’d advise all passengers to contact easyJet and leave extra time for check-in. We’re doing our best to support the airline with this and have had our airport staff helping easyJet personnel to get people through.”
EasyJet, Britain’s biggest airline by passenger numbers, is likely to be heavily hit by the one-day shutdown.
It is obliged to meet the accommodation and meal costs of stranded passengers, and in addition, anyone whose flight is cancelled or delayed by three hours or more is entitled to a minimum €250 (£211) of compensation, according to EU regulations.
It is reported that on a typical day easyJet’s reservations system will take in £1.25 million worth of bookings, with the highest fares charged for bookings immediately before departure.