TENS of thousands of Virgin, Tiger, Rex and Jetstar passengers were affected by flight delays and cancellations across the country on Saturday morning when the airlines' check-in and reservation systems crashed.
Jetstar confirmed ''several thousand'' passengers who had purchased seats on about 100 domestic and international flights were affected. More than 6000 Tiger Airways passengers on 40 flights suffered knock-on delays from the outage.
Terminal 2 at Sydney Airport was thrown into chaos by the power failure, with crowds quickly swelling and queues snaking outside to the drop-off zone.
Airline staff were forced to manually check in passengers at Sydney Airport, as well as in Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth.
A power failure at a Sydney data centre at 9.30am caused the three-hour outage, affecting the Navitaire reservations system, a Jetstar spokesman said.
The system provides check-in and boarding services for the four budget airlines. Qantas was not affected. Tiger and Virgin have blamed Navitaire, the subsidiary of American company Accenture, for the problem.
The failure also meant passengers who wanted to purchase different flight tickets were unable to do so. The system was resurrected before midday.
Greg Argent and his partner Megan Norman waited for two hours with five children between seven and 12 years to board their Jetstar flight to the Gold Coast.
Their flight JQ408 was supposed to depart at 11am but more than an hour later they were still waiting to be manually checked in with their holiday plans now in disarray.
''We had plans to go to theme parks this afternoon but now that's all cancelled,'' said Mr Argent, from Peakhurst.
''We had to go find someone with an orange uniform to get information,'' said Ms Norman. ''We can't hear the announcements because it's so loud.''
John, a painter, missed his exhibition at an art gallery in Melbourne after his 2pm Virgin flight was delayed.
''I tried to check in via the Virgin app but it didn't work. Instead it said on the screen that I must contact the airport,'' he said. ''I called them and they said the website was under maintenance and that I must check in at the airport.''
He said he would not have gone to the airport had he known about the delays. ''I'm thinking, was it purposeful misinformation?''