A domino effect that felled contractors to four of the nation's largest airlines led to chaotic scenes in airports across Australia today, with thousands of passengers delayed for hours.
Virgin, Jetstar and Tiger airlines lost their ability to check-in or board thousands of passengers on to their flights for three hours on because they all contract their systems to Navitaire.
Navitaire, operated by US systems giant Accenture in turn contracts to Equinix, a data centre in Sydney. Accenture released a statement at 1pm.
"A power failure occurred in a third party data centre in Sydney which impacted the Navitaire reservation systems," it said.
"We are working closely with all impacted clients to restore services as quickly as possible."
The system fell down at 9.30am and airlines were not prepared to say how long it would take for the delays to be cleared.
Queues of passengers snaked around the terminals as both domestic and international passengers attempted to check in manually.
Fairfax motoring editor Toby Hagon, who was due to fly from Sydney to Melbourne, said dozens of flights had been delayed for check in and boarding.
Navitaire has come under fire before. In 2010, Virgin’s check-in system crashed leaving 50,000 passengers delayed or stranded after Navitaire’s parallel "disaster recovery system" failed.
Virgin Australia spokeswoman Melissa Thomson said the airline would move to a new IT system next year and would no longer be using Navitaire.
Ms Thomson said its systems were now back and working and it was attempting to minimise delays and clear the backlog of passengers. She encouraged passengers to check the Virgin website for updated information.
Lorraine McGhie flew overnight from Singapore and was en route in Melbourne on her way to Launceston for her parents 60th wedding anniversary.
"The information has been very patchy," Ms McGhie said.
She said Jetstar staff were mingling around telling passengers what was happening but if passengers were warned not to crowd staff.
"We were repeatedly told to move away but then you don’t get any information," Ms McGhie said.
She said she regretted flying Jetstar: "I am only here for a little time and I don’t want to spend it in the airport. I rarely do (fly Jetstar) but I chose to this time and I won’t be again."
Ali Davidson was going to the Gold Coast for a holiday. She was stoic about her predicament.
"We will get there, there is no use getting cross, I just feel sorry for the people with children," Ms Davidson said.
She also complained about the lack of information about which queue they should join.
"People stand at the end of a queue and then go nowhere," she said.
Richard Murray at Melbourne Airport said he was waiting to board his holiday flight to Maroochydore with his four children. "It is not a great start to the holiday," Mr Murray said.
"Of course we blame Jetstar but really it is the ticketing system they are using.
"It doesn’t say a lot for them. Qantas is still going. It has happened before and it shows how fragile Accenture’s system is," he said.
Hagon thought he had beaten the check-in queue by using his phone to check in with a QR code earlier today, but a failed printer at the boarding gate left him and other passengers unable to board and waiting for the problem to be resolved at noon.
Jetstar staff were handing out $8 refreshment vouchers to affected passengers.
Jetstar spokesman Stephen Moynihan said the system was beginning to come back at 11.45am and Jetstar was attempting to clear a backlog of passengers.
"We have added additional resources to get our customers to their destinations as quickly as possible," Mr Moynihan said.
"There are knock on delays of between one to three hours as we move passengers on to their flights," he said.
Ground staff were forced to process passengers manually during the failure, he said.
Tiger Airways spokeswoman Vanessa Regan said Tiger had fewer flights on Saturdays but confirmed the problem was with the system provider.Tiger passenger Warren Viti said his flight from Melbourne to Sydney was delayed for 20 minutes after they switched to manual check-in."They re-issued new boarding passes manually and asked the weight of our checked luggage," he said.
Graeme Hogan of Tyrrell’s Wines said Virgin was manually checking passengers in at Melbourne Airport "one at a time" and that the 10am flight to Sydney was still boarding at 11.10am.
Qantas said it was not affected by the system failure.