Almost 60,000 travellers have been affected by a refuelling problem at Lisbon airport that took most of yesterday (Wednesday) to resolve.
According to reports this morning, resulting flight delays may not be sorted before Saturday.
How this will affect the Pope’s visit, starting tomorrow, is another question – but up-to-date information as we write suggests that “around 400 flights have been affected”: 64 cancelled, 11 diverted and 322 suffering delays.
TSF radio reported last night that Civil Protection was assembling makeshift beds at the airport for the legions of stranded travellers.
The problems began at midday. Airport director João Nunes told a press conference in the evening, that if it wasn’t for recourse to ‘autotanks’ which automatically pump fuel into aircraft, “the situation would have been a great deal worse”.
The refuelling system is the responsibility of GOC (Grupo Operacional de Combustíveis, run by Petrogal), explains TSF.
“For questions of safety and precaution, there is a redundant refuelling circuit”, the news service adds, but “unfortunately, the problem that happened” (and which has never happened before) affected this circuit as well as the main fuel feed.
As far as TSF explains, the problem stemmed from ‘air in the system’.
Nunes, however, has described the refuelling system as “sophisticated”.
Whatever the causes, scenes last night rapidly descended into chaos, as the photograph taken by film-maker Kristjan Knigge as he and his family tried to return to Holland clearly shows.
Fortunately for Knigge, the family’s flight ended up taking off, and they are all now safely back home.