This week: Qantas black Monday, UK’s air traffic chaos & more

It’s our last news update for 2014 before we go on our Xmas break. And what a week it was:

The week started pretty dark for Qantas this week after three of its flights showed problems on the same day affecting hundreds of passengers. Australian Newspaper The Age summarised the incidents as following: A Dallas-bound flight from Sydney was turned late on Monday due to a technical fault that affected seat power, the in-flight entertainment system and some of the toilets. Earlier that day a Qantas flight from Dubai to Sydney (SYD) was forced to make an “emergency descent” to Perth (PER) after a fault with the aircraft’s air conditioning system. Also on Monday, Karratha-bound flight QF904 was also returned to Perth when an unusual odour filled the cabin; dozens of passengers reportedly needed medical treatment. Unions were quick to link the spate of in flight turn backs to staff cuts and cost efficiencies which Qantas’ CEO Alan Joyce denied in a Sydney Morning Herald article.

Widespread disruption at airports around the UK occurred on Friday when a technical fault in the flight data system at the National Air Traffic Services (NATS) centre in Swanwick forced the system to be shut down and restored. The BBC quoted Heathrow Airport (LHR) saying that 38 flights due to arrive or take off before 09:30 GMT on Saturday had been cancelled but the subsequent schedule was “back to normal”. The news service also said that many passengers had to stay in hotels overnight because of rescheduled flights.

On Tuesday Swedish police briefly evacuated parts of the country’s main airport, Stockholm Arlanda (ARN), after a bomb threat, Reuters reported. Police said it had seized but not arrested an apparently mentally unstable man after he made a bomb threat to an airplane. Cordons were lifted after police finished searching an airport gate and moved the plane to finalise a search. Airport operator Swedavia said on its website that flights at Arlanda, which is situated north of the capital, were resuming but warned there may be delays throughout that afternoon.

Up to 1,000 food workers at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) went on strike Thursday morning, closing many of the airport’s restaurants amid a winter storm that’s delaying flights out of the Bay Area for hours. “Travelers – bring your own food if you’re flying out of the San Francisco International Airport!” Unite Here Local 2, a hospitality workers’ union, said in a statement posted on its website.  The strike is taking place amid the strongest Bay Area storm in years. Heavy rain was falling across Nothern California as an “atmospheric river” brought in cold air and strong winds that have knocked over trees and slowed public transit, wrote L.A. Times. Flights going into and out of SFO are delayed up to three hours and 40 minutes, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

And – for our very last news of the year – some good news from Germany. There, Deutsche Welle reported that a date is set for the long-delayed opening of the new Berlin airport. Following a board meeting of Berlin’s BER Airport project company on Friday, the company’s vice president said the German capital’s new airport would be opened “in the second half of 2017.” Still pretty vague if you ask us, but at least they gave us a year.

That’s all for 2014 – we’ll be back early January with fresh news updates. In the meantime, check out our Twitter feed for daily updates and enjoy a peaceful Christmas with your loved ones. Plus, of course, save travels!

[Photo Credit: Christian Junker – AHKGAP via Compfight cc]