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Sydney Airport chaos after 'technical issue' leaves passengers stranded

Rachel Clun, Jenny Noyes

Published: March 9 2018 - 6:12AM

Thousands of passengers at Sydney Airport's international and domestic terminals are facing major delays on Friday morning after a "technical issue" left passengers stranded.

While limited screening reopened just before 7am, the major delays are expected to have a knock-on effect at airports across Australia.

A spokesperson for Sydney Airport said the issue had affected systems including CCTV, and interrupted passenger processing at the T1 International and T2 Domestic terminals.

"We will continue to provide regular updates. Passengers are advised to contact their airline for information about their flight.

"Our priority now is to ensure all passengers are safely on their way."

The T3 Qantas domestic terminal was not affected, a Qantas spokeswoman said.

Security was reopened at both the international and domestic terminals about 6.45am. By 7.30am, about a third of the thousands of passengers in the domestic terminal were through screening.

Virgin Australia said passengers were being processed at a "reduced capacity" and they would work to accommodate affected guests.

While passengers were mostly calm, one passenger deep in the queue exclaimed: "this is diabolical".

By 8am the backlog of waiting passengers was returning to normal at both the international and domestic terminals and new arrivals were being processed, Sydney Airport spokeswoman Cait Tynan said.

"Everyone has been fantastic,” she said. “We thank them for their patience and understanding."

Justin Ahern, 42, arrived at the airport at 6.30am for a 9am Perth flight to "beat the Sydney traffic", and did not seem bothered by the delays.

"It's inconvenient but it's not too bad,” he said.

“Flights seem to be leaving almost on time. It’s not the end of the world."

Rein Turley was at the domestic terminal for a flight to Adelaide, and she said despite the delays people seemed to be "in good spirits".

"I think the one person really smiling is the terminal cafe owner," she said.

Speaking about 6.45am, Ms Turley said she estimated more than 2000 people were waiting in the departures hall.

"The IT issue has been fixed and they have started letting people on the earliest flights through."

Jennifer Olding, 29, arrived at the international terminal at 4am for a flight to London via Dubai. She said the gates between the departure hall and border security were closed.

"They announced that they had a power outage and so no one could go through border security," she said.

"Then they said they didn’t know if it would be 30 minutes or several hours and they were working to rectify the problem but no one could log onto any of their systems so no one could pass through customs."

She said there were only about 500 people in the departures hall when she arrived, but crowds rapidly built up.

"It's absolutely packed," she said.

Airline staff were also unable to pass through customs. Ms Olding said she spoke to a border protection officer at a coffee stand who had no idea when he'd be allowed in to start working.

"Everyone's pretty good-tempered, probably because we all got up so early," she said. "But I reckon in an hour, it won't be so nice."

Sydney Airport delays felt around Australia

A Brisbane Airport Corporation spokeswoman said Brisbane would feel the knock-on effects from Sydney.

"The whole of Australia is going to feel the effects of this," she said.

"Passengers are most definitely being told to contact their airline staff if they've got concerns about the schedule."

Several flights arriving in Brisbane from Sydney were delayed or cancelled, with Jetstar and Virgin flights most affected.

Virgin cancelled a flight to Brisbane and several other arrivals were delayed, while one departing Jetstar flight from Brisbane to Sydney was delayed by more than an hour.

The chaos at Sydney Airport is also affecting peak-hour flights to Melbourne.

Melbourne Airport spokesman Grant Smith said the technical issues would have a "variety of impacts" on Melbourne throughout the morning.

"There are a couple of inbound flights held on the ground in Sydney," he said.

"One TigerAir flight has delays posted, it has been pushed back by at least an hour."

Mr Smith said the airport was approaching its peak morning period for flights between Melbourne and Sydney.

"There are so many flights at this time of day," he said. "A lot could change."

He said the best thing for passengers to do is check the status of their flight with their airline.

At Canberra Airport, one flight to Sydney was delayed and an airport spokeswoman said the flow on effect appeared to be minimal at this stage.

With Anna Prytz, Ruth McCosker, Sherryn Groch

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