Lufthansa Cancels Flights After Cable is Cut During Construction Work

Thousands of airline passengers were stranded in Germany and around the world after a severed telecommunications cable knocked out Lufthansa’s digital systems, the company said Wednesday, forcing the cancellation of more than 120 flights.

Lufthansa said it had been “affected by an IT outage, caused by construction work in the Frankfurt region,” and urged passengers traveling within Germany to rebook their travel on trains. Frankfurt is Lufthansa’s main hub in Germany and the international airport is the country’s largest, serving as a key location for international travel.

“All departures and landings in Frankfurt have been suspended for the time being, and the program to and from Munich is also partially affected,” Lufthansa said in a statement.

Lufthansa said that it expected the problem to be resolved by later in the day and apologized to travelers, encouraging them to rebook flights scheduled for Wednesday. Lufthansa passengers at other airports were also affected by the outage, as the disruptions in Frankfurt reverberated throughout the carrier’s network.

By midday on Wednesday, Flight Aware, a site that tracks the movement of airplanes, showed that 123 Lufthansa flights had been canceled and 77 delayed. More than half of the canceled flights were destined for Frankfurt Airport, leaving passengers who had been booked on those flights stranded at their destinations.

Airport officials could not be reached for comment.

Deutsche Telekom, Germany’s main telecom provider, confirmed that a fiberglass cable buried five meters, or more than 16 feet underground, had been severed by a concrete drill during construction work, taking thousands of customers in the greater Frankfurt area offline.

“Our technicians are already on site,” Telekom said in a message posted to Twitter late Tuesday, along with photos showing heavy construction equipment and a tangle of cables. “Due to the significant damage and situation on the site, the repair will be extremely difficult.”

An excavator working in Düsseldorf damaged 17 fiber-optic lines in an single accident on Friday, severing services for thousands of customers, including the state police for North Rhine-Westphalia and Germany’s federal statistics offices, for several hours.

Passengers on Lufthansa who had already checked their luggage and wanted to rebook their travel were stranded without their bags, adding to the delays and difficulties.

Lufthansa is part of the larger Lufthansa Group, which includes Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Swiss and Eurowings.

Austrian Airlines, based in Vienna, said that the impact to its flights at midday Wednesday was “still minor” although it had suspended all flights to Frankfurt temporarily. Eurowings said it had informed passengers of disruptions, without giving any further details.

The technical problems come as thousands of ground personnel and air traffic controllers plan to hold strikes at several German airports on Friday, leaving the country already bracing for disruptions.

Germany’s main railway, Deutsche Bahn, was targeted by saboteurs last year, who targeted overhead cables disrupting travel across the country and raising concerns about the vulnerability of communications infrastructure.

Christopher F. Schuetze contributed reporting.