Thousands of airline passengers were unable to check in online, reserve their seats or buy plane tickets on Monday after one of the aviation industry’s main computer networks crashed.
The breakdown of the Amadeus system, which lasted three hours, also hit travel agents who use the service to book flights.
A number of airlines were hit by the glitch including British Airways, Iberia, Qantas and Cathay Pacific, who are all members of the oneworld alliance.
The problems also hit the airlines’ check-in desks at airports where staff had to manually input passengers’ details rather than scan their passport.
According to one industry source the computer failure caused a “meltdown” for several hours causing hours of frustration for passengers until the system was restored.
However there was some relief that the system crashed during one of the quietest parts of the year rather than on a Bank Holiday or during the height of the summer peak.
Had that happened airlines would have faced long queues of passengers at check in desks, who would have needed processing individually by check in staff.
Amadeus is one of four main global distribution systems use by the aviation and travel industries.
They are seen as playing a vital role in ensuring airlines and airports run smoothly especially with the industry urging passengers to complete as many of the formalities such as checking in before they even arrive at the terminal.
Amadeus now faces competition from a number and more modern providers including Galileo and Worldspan.
Airlines who used alternative systems experienced no disruption and were able to operate normally.
Amadeus declined to discuss what had caused the malfunction or say how many passengers had been disrupted by the computer crash.
In a statement the company said: “Amadeus can confirm that some airlines are experiencing difficulties with our systems. We regret any delay and inconvenience caused and are fully investigating this issue.”