Two air traffic controllers called in sick at Sydney Airport on Sunday at the last minute, causing Airservices Australia, the government agency responsible for airspace management, to “slow down traffic”.
The result was the cancellation of at least 26 outbound flights and the stranding of thousands of travellers across the country, The Australian reported.
“As safety is our first priority, we had to slow down traffic while we worked with the airlines to resolve the issue,” an Airservices Australia spokesperson told the paper.
“We were able to get in extra staff to return to full capacity and reworked the schedule but unfortunately the impact on services could not be fully recovered and some flights had already been cancelled.”
The situation was exacerbated by the higher than normal passenger loads given the school holidays as well as heavy rain and cloud cover in Sydney.
Qantas issued a statement saying everything was being done to “get customers moving”.
“But the reduced take off and landing rates meant we’ve had to cancel some flights,” the statement said.
“Some customers were moved to flights on Sunday evening but as it’s school holidays, we have limited spare seats so others won’t travel until Monday.”
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