By Ilona Wissenbach and Hakan Ersen
FRANKFURT (Reuters) -An IT failure at Lufthansa stranded passengers and forced flights to Germany’s busiest airport to be cancelled or diverted on Wednesday, with the airline blaming botched railway engineering works that damaged broadband cables.
More than 200 flights have been cancelled so far in Frankfurt, a vital international transit hub and one of Europe’s biggest airports, a spokesperson for operator Fraport said. Lufthansa expects the situation to stabilise by evening.
Data from FlightAware showed 105 flights had also been delayed as of 1243 GMT. Photos and videos from several German airports showed thousands of passengers waiting to be checked in.
“We wanted to go to the wizard convention in England, in Blackpool. And now we are stranded here,” Alexander Straub said at Frankfurt airport. “We have eaten some pretzels and are still waiting,” said his fellow passenger Marc Weidel.
Lufthansa and Germany’s national train operator blamed the problem on third-party engineering works on a railway line extension that took place on Tuesday evening, when a drill cut through a Deutsche Telekom fibre optic cable bundle.
That caused passenger check-in and boarding systems at Lufthansa to seize up on Wednesday morning and prompted German air traffic control to suspend incoming flights, though these have since resumed.
Shares in Lufthansa, which also owns SWISS, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines and Eurowings, were down 0.8%, paring earlier losses, while Fraport shares were 0.9% down in early afternoon trading.
Passengers said on social media the company was using pen and paper to organise flight boardings and that it was unable to digitally process passengers’ luggage.
In a tweet, Lufthansa said: “As of this morning the airlines of the Lufthansa Group are affected by an IT outage, caused by construction work in the Frankfurt region.”
Deutsche Telekom said in a statement: “Two cables have already been repaired overnight by our technical team and many customers are already back online,” adding the situation was improving continuously.
Deutsche Bahn apologised to Lufthansa passengers for the inconvenience caused.
The IT system failure comes two days ahead of planned strikes at seven German airports that are expected to lead to major disruptions, including potentially at the Munich Security Conference where world leaders are expected to gather.
Scandinavian airline SAS said it was hit by a cyber attack on Tuesday evening and urged customers to refrain from using its app, but later said it had fixed the problem.
Unknown attackers cut cables belonging to Germany’s public railway in December in what was seen as a second act of sabotage against Deutsche Bahn in as many months.
Airlines cancelled more than 1,300 flights and over 10,000 were delayed in the United States last month after the breakdown of a key government computer system.
(Reporting by Ilona Wissenbach, Hakan Ersen and Riham Alkousaa Writing by Riham Alkousaa and Matthias Williamsediting by Mark Potter and Jason Neely)