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Processing system glitch hits airports across Australia

Flights delayed by outage in the passenger processing system that clears travellers for international travel

Travellers trying to check in for international flights out of Australia this morning suffered long delays when the immigration department’s passenger processing system crashed.

Based on technology from air transport industry IT provider Sita, the system – known as Advanced Passenger Processing (APP) – is used by airlines to verify travellers’ passports and ensure they are cleared to fly.

Carriers were forced to resort to manual check-ins for passengers, and long queues formed at counters across Australian international departure terminals. The outage occurred at about 8am local time.

“Airlines experiencing difficulty checking in travellers for international services due to outage of Advanced Passenger Processing system,” Melbourne Airport tweeted this morning.

Sydney Airport tweeted similar woes: “Airlines are experiencing check-in delays due to a system issue. Check with your airline for latest information. Thanks for your patience.”

Auckland and Wellington airports in New Zealand faced similar problems.

The APP system came back online at about 11am, but it took at least an hour to clear the backlog of passengers and resume normal check-in procedures.

Departing flights were delayed by about 30 minutes in Sydney and up to 45 minutes in Melbourne. By noon, most flights were leaving on time.

The Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection, which runs the country’s passport systems, blamed the outage on an “external” issue.

“The department is aware of an external system outage with the Sita system; this will affect travellers entering and departing Australia,” it wrote on its website.

Additional border security officers had been deployed to “minimise the impact to passengers”, it added.

Airlines that fly passengers to countries where entry has not been granted can face heavy fines, and must also return such passengers to their home countries at the airlines’ expense.

Australia has been using the APP system for checks on all departing passengers since early 2016.

Passengers pre-cleared by the APP system can proceed through passport control by using the electronic SmartGate border control system at the country’s international airports. SmartGate also alerts border security forces to passengers of concern before they reach the departure gates.

Australia’s APP system is based on Sita’s iBorders platform that is also used by about 30 countries to process about two million transactions a month.

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