Sometimes it helps to reverse the maxim of "out with the old and in with the new." That was especially the case when the "new" was out of commission on Monday morning at Gatwick Airport in the UK. A severed fiberoptic cable had rendered the airport's computer system inoperable, leaving the staff scrambling for a way to display arrival and departure information in lieu of the screens that had blacked out.
But thanks to a few quick-thinking employees, at least passengers got a makeshift solution to the outage. A few enterprising workers managed to find a bunch of whiteboards, markers, and dry erasers, wheeled them out to the airport's main foyer, and posted by hand all the updated data concerning flight traffic. Tower personnel used walkie-talkies to communicate updates to workers at the whiteboards to scribble in the latest information for all to see.
According to a number of posts on social media during the period when the equipment was offline, some passengers were gratified that a few workers took great pains to ensure that otherwise concerned passengers would get access to the updates. Others were astounded at how calm and organized the staff was in dealing with the situation.
Still, the measures taken were not exactly favorable, according to a few detractors, who complained that the airport staff should be embarrassed over how what was perceived to be an IT mistake could bring down the facility's computer infrastructure. Others claimed it was pure carnage at the airport, although much of that could have been on behalf of irate passengers reacting to the electronic displays going offline. A few were unimpressed with the messiness of the handwriting.
Gatwick staff reported that during the outage, which lasted a few hours, thousands of passengers managed to reach their planes on time, save for only a handful of people, and no flights were delayed. An airport spokesperson also added that the facility had a contingency plan created for such emergencies as an outage, which made additional staff available to help direct passengers to the proper departure gates where their planes were waiting.
Vodaphone, which supplies the computers for electronically posting flight data on the screens, said the problem was resolved by late afternoon.