A continuing software “malfunction” at Germany’s air traffic control (ATC) provider, DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung has forced airlines to cancel dozens of flights today. The German flag carrier, Lufthansa has been worst affected with over 46 flights at its Frankfurt hub cancelled and the travel plans of more than 4,600 passengers impacted. The airport operator has warned of delays and cancellations, with scenes of long queues emerging from the airport.
The ATC agency says it has reduced capacity by as much as 25% around Frankfurt am Main, Cologne Bonn, Stuttgart and Dusseldorf. The software glitch first started last Thursday but DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung doesn’t think a fix will be found until at least Wednesday or possibly even Thursday 28th March.
In a statement, the agency said its technicians were “working hard to analyze the error.” The cause of the issue is the display of electronic control strips, which have stopped working properly. DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung was keen to point out that all other ATC systems were working normally and that safety had not been compromised.
A spokesperson explained that the ‘control strips’ “provide scheduling information to air traffic controllers and contain all important data for the course of the flight, such as type of aircraft, route, expected time of flight and other information. In addition to the radar data presentation, they provide the pilot with the essential information for his inspection activities.”
Operations at Frankfurt Airport were hampered even further on Friday morning after a drone was sighted near the airfield. Flights had to be grounded for around 30 minutes before police gave the all-clear – the airport Tweeted that everything was back to normal and that the incident hadn’t caused any “chaos” as was the case after a drone incident at Gatwick Airport in December.
Lufthansa was also forced to cancel hundreds of flights at Frankfurt Airport in August after a security breach led to the partial evacuation of what is Germany’s busiest airport. On that occasion, Lufthansa said over 7,000 had been affected after a French family were accidentally allowed into a secure airside area without first going through security.
Last year, flight delays and cancellations caused mainly by ATC problems across Europe cost Lufthansa €513 million. The airline suspects similar problems this year, which were in part caused by widespread strikes by air traffic controllers in France and Belgium.