Network error grounds flights

A breakdown in the communication system linking the country’s airports prevented flights from taking off for nearly three hours yesterday morning, leaving hundreds of passengers stuck in departure lounges or aboard aircraft waiting on runways. Televized images showed passengers sleeping on plastic chairs at Athens International Airport and others sitting on the floor or on their luggage, waiting for news on their flights. According to a Civil Aviation Authority spokesman, the malfunction occured at 8 a.m. and was resolved just before 11 a.m. Although scheduled takeoffs were suspended, flights were able to land normally. Yiannis Kormoulakis, secretary-general of the air traffic controllers union, blamed the problem on «a systematic failure by authorities to modernize technical equipment for airspace surveillance.»