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Chaos at Beirut airport due to system failure

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Beirut International Airport

Middle East Airlines announced delays to all flights scheduled for Friday “for reasons out of its control,” after an overnight systems failure at Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport stranded passengers.

Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri will head a meeting at 3 p.m. to discuss the current situation at the airport, a statement from his office said. A number of ministers and relevant officials will be present in the meeting.

In a statement, MEA posted an updated schedule of departing and arriving flights, adding that further information will be available once the flights are ready.

The Airport’s Deputy Director Youssef Tannous advised travellers to be at the airport more than three hours before their scheduled flight, “exceptionally for today,” due to the system failure.

Thousands were stuck overnight at the airport after the departures and bag drop processing systems stopped operating, delaying flights and trapping passengers who had checked in.

The system, created by aviation tech developer SITA, failed at 11 p.m., according to a statement from the General Directorate of Civil Aviation.

The system was back up at 4:30 a.m., according to the state-run National News Agency, but flights scheduled to take off in the early morning hours were delayed to the afternoon.

During the malfunction, passengers who had crossed the check-in area were trapped with no water or food until 7 a.m.

In a recording shared with The Daily Star, angry passengers criticized the airport’s administration, asking for food and water.

“We have been left with no sleep, food or water,” one passenger said.

“We’re not asking for a hotel, but at least give us water,” another was heard saying.

An airport source confirmed the flights had been delayed, and said employees were checking in passengers by jotting down their details by hand until the system resumed.

In its statement, Civil Aviation apologized to passengers for the delay, adding that a follow-up statement will be released later.

The airport authority said it holds SITA fully accountable for the error and will take the necessary legal action against the company, which it said provides similar services to 70 percent of the world’s airports.

Head of the airport Fadi al-Hassan told local news channel MTV that the airport’s administration will hold a meeting with SITA representatives today and demand compensation.

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