Why did Swiss air traffic control fail and what’s ahead for passengers?

The Local Switzerland
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Why did Swiss air traffic control fail and what’s ahead for passengers?
All packed u with nowhere to go: passengers at Zurich and Geneva airports were stranded for hours. Connor Danylenko on Pexels

Swiss airspace reopened Wednesday morning after a computer glitch grounded flights at Zurich and Geneva airport for hours. But do we know why it happened?


Switzerland reopened its airspace on Wednesday morning at about 8:30am after a technical malfunction at air traffic control centre, Skyguide, grounded all flights for several hours.

During that time, no planes took off or landed in Geneva and Zurich.

Flights that were already en route to Switzerland had to be diverted to other European airports.

READ MORE: UPDATE: Switzerland reopens airspace after tech glitch grounds all flights

"At 9 am, when this announcement was made, 2,000 people were waiting to board at Geneva airport”, according to Tribune de Genève.

A number of flights, including long-haul ones from the United States were diverted to Paris or Milan, with airlines now scrambling to rebook passengers on Switzerland-bound flights.


Operations at the two airports will be at a 75-percent capacity throughout Wednesday. This means a number of flights will be cancelled. “Obviously, the disruptions will spread throughout the day,” Zurich airport spokesperson told Blick newspaper.

Airspace around Basel’s EuroAirport was not affected, as it is located on the French territory, in the administrative commune of Saint-Louis in Alsace.

Reasons unclear

The answer to why such a glitch happened at Switzerland’s two biggest airports remains unknown, Skyguide said, adding that it is doing everything possible to ensure that "flights run efficiently, in order to reduce delays as much as possible".

But according to Blick  which interviewed aviation expert Patrick Huber, the system failure was “apparently a hardware problem”.

"The question remains as to why such relevant systems are not used redundantly at Skyguide - that is, that another device could take over the services of the failed facility in the event of a failure".

Are stranded / diverted passengers entitled to compensation?

As long as airlines get passengers to their final destinations, no compensation for short delays are usually given.

This official link provides information about passenger rights in the European Union.

READ MORE: Strikes and queues: How airline passengers in Europe face summer travel chaos





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