Blackout hits flights in Panama, a major Latin America hub

Passengers wait during a blackout at Tocumen International Airport in Panama City on Sept 19, 2017.
Passengers wait during a blackout at Tocumen International Airport in Panama City on Sept 19, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

PANAMA CITY (AFP) - A blackout at Panama's main international airport - a major hub for Latin America - caused more than 200 flights to be cancelled and many others delayed on Monday, airport officials said.

A malfunction in a circuit panel distributing power internally to the facility was to blame, according to the airport authority, which set up a "crisis room" to handle the disruption.

Thousands of frustrated passengers faced lines and clogged halls as harried airport staff struggled before blanked-out check-in screens.

Buses ferried some stranded passengers to Panama hotels to spend the night, but many more were left to sit on the floor with their bags next to them.

According to the website FlightAware, which tracks cancellations by airport, around 20 percent of flights departing from Panama's Tocumen International Airport were scrapped.

The aeropuertos.net flight information website said that more than 200 arriving or departing flights were cancelled.

National carrier Copa Airlines was hardest hit, saying in a statement that it "was forced to cancel around 140 of our flights." Late in the day, operations started to be restored, with more flights taking off, but backlogs continued.

The airport serves more than 90 destinations in the Americas and Europe and receives around 14 million passengers a year.