Several delays and cancellations hit travellers heading through Southwest Germany last week. According to reports from Deutsche Flugsicherung (DFS), the agency responsible for air traffic control in Germany, the delays and cancellations were caused as a result of software issues. This led to the airport being able to operate only at 75% of its usual capacity.
According to DFS, the IT systems had to be updated, which did not take place until much later.
Major Airports Affected
Germany is known for being home to some of the busiest airports. Of its ten busiest airports, 4, namely Stuttgart, Cologne/Bonn, Frankfurt, and Dusseldorf, were greatly affected by the software problem, especially at the control centre in Langen, which monitors flight progress via electronic displays.
The Langen Centre is responsible for monitoring the airspace that extends from Lake Constance in the south to Kassel in the north. In the east, it begins at Thuringia and goes all the way to the French border in the west.
Fortunately, the other air traffic control systems and control centres run by DFS remained active. This included Bremen, Munich, and Karlsruhe, which were reportedly unaffected by the software problem.
DFS later reported that the software problems did not affect air traffic safety. The agency later assisted in shifting the European air traffic around the Langen airspace. This was done in coordination with Eurocontrol in Brussels.
Lufthansa Bears the Brunt
There were, reportedly, 60 cancellations that took place in Frankfurt alone on Monday morning. A majority of the cancellations were said to have been on Lufthansa, the popular German carrier. It was also reported that Frankfurt International Airport had been experiencing delays of 30 minutes at both, arrivals and departures.
In light of the problem, authorities in Germany put in efforts to reduce air traffic volume on Wednesday. Towards the end of the week, around 50 out of 1,400 flights had to be cancelled. Stuttgart and Cologne/Bonn ended up facing a few delays. However, according to a report, Dusseldorf did not face any issues.
Drone Spotting Causes Trouble
In an unrelated incident on Friday, a drone spotting near the airfield led to a 30-minute halt in air traffic. A similar incident took place at Gatwick Airport in London, UK. Drone sightings had shut down air traffic for almost 33 hours last year. A subsidiary of DFS handled the air traffic control operations at Gatwick.
The Frankfurt International Airport is one of the busiest airports in Europe, with regard to passenger volume and flight numbers. It is ranked as the 5th busiest airport. It was estimated that the airport served almost 70 million passengers in 2018.
Fraport, a company that manages the Lufthansa hub, is considering the idea of adding helicopter taxis as part of its mobility offerings.
There are around 2000 air traffic controllers in Germany, who are tasked with managing about 10,000 flights each day. This adds up to roughly 3 million flights every year.