IT Woes Ground American Airlines Flights

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An outage in a key reservations system has grounded all flights at American Airlines this afternoon, as the airline instituted a system-wide ground delay until 7 p.m. Eastern time. The technology problems, which left passengers and gate agents unable to manage bookings or print boarding passes, caused backups at airports in many areas of the country.

“American’s network system is experiencing intermittent outages,” the airline said. “At this time, we are holding all flights on the ground until later this afternoon, when we will provide another update. We are working to resolve this issue as quickly as we can, and we apologize to our customers for this inconvenience … We’re currently unable to modify today’s reservations. However, when able, we’ll offer refunds or update travel at no charge.

“The issue is with our ability to access our reservation system,” American said on Twitter, correcting an earlier tweet that attributed the downtime to problems with the Sabre reservations network. Sabre, which also serves other airlines, said “All Sabre systems are up and running; no issues here.”

UPDATE: As of 4:30 p.m. Eastern, American said its systems outage was resolved, but impacts on operations would continue to be felt. “Our systems have been fully restored, however we expect continued flight delays and cancellations throughout the remainder of the day.” In a statement on its Facebook page, the airline offered several options for travelers with flights today.

The airline added an unusual comment, apparently to address speculation: “It is important to note we see no evidence that today’s technical outage is related to the tragic events in Boston.”

The outage was causing significant delays at Dallas-Forth Worth airport, a major hub for American. “At DFW, there are some aircraft on the ramps awaiting departure, as well as arrivals flights awaiting gate space,” airport spokesperson Sarah McDaniel told the Dallas News. “Aircraft have also returned to the gate and deplaned passengers.”

The outage is the latest in a series of incidents in which problems with airline reservations systems have snarled air traffic and inconvenienced passengers. Here’s a recap:

  • United Continental had significant systems outages last August and again in November, when the problems were attributed to integration problems from the merger between United and Continental.
  • Last October customers of Alaska Airlines were stranded for hours when a cable cut on a fiber optic line severed the airlines’ connection to Sabre,preventing customers from checking in for flights and is causing delays systemwide.
  • Last July the “Leap Second Bug” caused computer problems with the Amadeus airline reservation system, triggering long lines and traveler delays at airports across Australia. More than 400 Qantas flights around Australia were delayed by at least two hours as staff switched to manual check-ins. The outage at Amadeus, one of the world’s major reservation systems, lasted about an hour but had a longer impact on air travelers and airline staff.

About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor at large of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.

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