Swiss airspace temporarily closed after interruption

06/15/2022 15:39 (act 06/15/2022 15:39)

After an unprecedented failure in Swiss Skyguide air traffic control, all airspace over Switzerland was closed for several hours on Wednesday morning. Thousands of passengers were affected – either because inbound flights were diverted to neighboring countries or because they initially waited in vain for departure. The fault was repaired around 8:30 am. Suspicion of a cyber attack was quickly dismissed. According to the company, the reason was a hardware defect.

Overflights over Switzerland were also banned. Hundreds of planes could be seen in Europe on radar maps, but one big black hole over Switzerland. Such a long interruption is highly unusual. The last major breakdown happened in 2013 due to a false fire alarm. Air traffic controllers had to leave the control rooms and no aircraft could take off or land for 20 minutes.

Markus Pohanka, spokesman for Austro Control, assured the APA that all systems in Austria were intact and in normal operation. “Safe and efficient handling of air traffic in Austria is fully guaranteed,” he said. However, the ban in Switzerland has led to alternative landings at other airports. In this country, this was only the case for a single plane from Shanghai, which landed in Vienna instead of Switzerland. He managed to take off to his original destination in Zurich before 10am.

“A component of the network was affected,” said Skyguide spokesman Vladi Barrosa. The network itself was designed to be “redundant” – that is, there are multiple parts – but that was not the case with this component. “It’s like a car, if the ignition or battery is faulty, it needs to be replaced before you can continue driving,” he said. The airspace had to be closed at around 4am because air traffic controllers could no longer see the machines on radar.

Among other things, the Lufthansa Swiss subsidiary was affected. Several flights to Geneva and Zurich had to be diverted. One plane landed in Vienna, one from Dubai and one from Johannesburg was diverted to Milan, one from Montreal and Chicago to Basel, a spokesman said. Most passengers were taken to their original destinations as soon as possible after the damage was repaired – also because the machines were scheduled for other flights. However, Swiss had to cancel 70 flights and, according to the information, a total of a good 7,000 passengers were affected.