IT Outage Causes Major Virgin Australia Delays

Flight delay clock
Most Virgin Australia flights on Friday evening were delayed or cancelled.

Virgin Australia flights all over the country suffered significant delays on Friday evening as an extended global outage of the airline’s IT provider brought its systems offline.

Some Australian Frequent Flyer members who were caught up in the outage described chaotic scenes at airports on Friday night as airline staff scrambled to manually check in passengers and get as many flights away as they could. But with the airline’s computer systems unavailable, meaning all passengers needed to be manually checked in and their bags manually accounted for, the delays continued well into Friday night and Saturday morning.

Most Virgin Australia flights due to depart after 4.30pm (AEST) on Friday afternoon were delayed. And more than 30 flights were cancelled, particularly flights to Sydney which would not have landed before the 11pm airport curfew (only one flight, arriving from Perth, was given special dispensation to land after the curfew kicked in).

AFF member Muppet501st was booked on a 5.40pm Virgin Australia flight from Mackay to Brisbane which was initially delayed by 3.5 hours, but eventually departed at 12.06am the next morning. This member was lucky enough to instead book a last-minute seat on Qantas, which was unaffected as it does not use Sabre.

I was booked on this VA flight, i arrived at the airport and received a text, orginaly stating, a 3.5hr delay. I needed to be back home at a reasonable hour, as i have a 6am start the next ( Saturday ) morning.
I was able to get the last J seat on QF, $750+ out of MKY.
Im very glad i did. Even if there were a VA lounge in MKY, 7+ hour waiting around would be unbearable!
Muppet501st, 22 May 2021

kookaburra75‘s flight from Brisbane to Canberra was only delayed by around two hours, but pgsdiver‘s flight from Brisbane to Sydney was continuously delayed before being cancelled. This member ended up flying the next day, but said the staff did a good job under the circumstances.

Finally back in SYD this morning on the 7:05 service, after a night at the Hyatt Regency in BNE – where the staff were really lovely and kept the kitchen open to make me some dinner. KUDOS HRB.
Since this is a lounge thread I wanted to compliment the VA lounge crew last night who struggled with a lack of information and continuously long line of people all asking the same questions. I was there from about 5:45 and it did not stop until nearly 9.30pm. They earned their money and I expressed my thanks to them after they did a dodgy transfer of my booking before my flight was officially cancelled.
pgsdiver, 22 May 2021

Others were rebooked onto flights departing 21 hours later than originally booked.

Many Virgin Australia customers were also unable to reach the call centre on Friday evening.

The Sabre issues were resolved by Saturday morning, but some delays continued on Saturday as many Virgin Australia passengers, planes and crew remained out of position.

What caused the IT outage?

The major delays were caused by a global IT outage affecting Sabre, a Global Distribution System (GDS) and technology company used by many airlines including Virgin Australia.

“Sabre, which is a third-party IT system we use for check-in, boarding and flight bookings, is investigating the cause of the outage,” a Virgin Australia Group spokesman said.

“While it has since been resolved, the impacts on our guests were felt right across our domestic network, and on behalf of Virgin Australia, we apologise for the disruption to their weekend travel plans,” the spokesperson said.

In a statement, Sabre blamed a “hardware redundancy failure” at Dell/EMC, a third party provider, for the global outage.

Rex Airlines was also affected by the Sabre outage, and numerous Rex flights were also delayed on Friday evening. But the impact wasn’t felt quite as widely because Rex has fewer flights and mostly operates smaller planes than Virgin Australia.

Other airlines affected around the world included American Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: VA/Sabre IT outage & major delays 21 May 2021

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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]