Days of disruption expected after tech glitch grounds flights in Switzerland

Days of disruption expected after tech glitch grounds flights in Switzerland

After a technical glitch left Swiss airspace empty and flights grounded on Wednesday, experts have warned that the knock-on effects from the outage will take days to deal with. The Swiss government has called for an immediate investigation into what happened, with some speculation that the problem may have been caused by a cyber attack.

Disruption expected at Zurich and Geneva airports in the coming days

In the early hours of Wednesday morning, air traffic control operator Skyguide reported a fault in their systems, closing Swiss airspace and grounding flights in and out of Zurich and Geneva as a result. Although the outage itself only lasted for a few hours, the knock-on effects have led to significant, ongoing disruption at Swiss airports, with flights delayed, cancelled and rerouted to airports in Germany, Italy and France.

Aviation expert and national councillor Thomas Hurter said that “after such chaos, it will take days to get back to normal.” He explained that Swiss airlines “must repatriate their planes and cabin crews, and take care of the [stranded] passengers,” meaning the effects of the outage will be felt for many days to come through overbooked flights, delays and cancellations.

Swiss parliament launches full investigation into possible cyber attack

Meanwhile, attention in parliament has now turned to what could have caused the outage, with many questioning whether a malicious cyber-attack was to blame. When hearing about it for the first time, "I immediately said to myself, joking: it's a blow from the Russians,” said National Councillor Valérie Piller Carrard. The Federal Council has now announced a full investigation by Swiss police into what happened.

Others in parliament have called for there to be a backup system installed to keep flights running, should the problem arise again. State Councillor Olivier Français noted that such an outage “has significant consequences for neighbouring countries. Everyone is impacted."

Aviation experts question the fragility of crucial tech systems in Switzerland

In response, Hurter said that any kind of backup system would cost millions of francs to implement. “For a company like SWISS, for example, this will have serious consequences, because its planes are very present in Switzerland,” he explained, since the company would need to pay millions to instal the system on each plane.

Ultimately, Hurter said that Skyguide's decision to switch off the network was the right one, regardless of the disruption caused. When asked whether the outage could have been caused by a cyber attack, Hurter said, “I hope not… But it shows that with such an important system for Switzerland suddenly not working, we are ultimately very fragile."

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Editor for Switzerland at IamExpat Media. Jan studied History at the University of York and Broadcast Journalism at the University of Sheffield. Though born in York, Jan has lived most...

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