DALLAS: Delta’s travails, and those of its customers, move into day two with the airline canceling of another 300 flights. The disruptions yesterday follow about 1,000 cancelled flights Monday and, according to FlightStats, about 2,800 delayed flights, after an outage at Delta’s Atlanta headquarters instigated a global meltdown of its booking and communications systems.
The airline was back online after a number of hours Monday, but the outages were so widespread that it is still dealing with the ripple effects a day later. FlightStats, a flight tracking services, puts delayed flights Tuesday at close to 600, and cancelled flights closer to 330.
More than 1,000 people spent the night at Narita airport outside Tokyo because of the shutdown and, while flights were resuming yesterday, Delta spokeswoman Hiroko Okada said more delays are expected. Delta also extended to yesterday travel waivers issued to the stranded.
The airline posted a video apology by CEO Ed Bastian. And it offered refunds and $200 in travel vouchers to people whose flights were canceled or delayed at least three hours. Delta’s challenge will be to find enough seats on planes during the busy summer vacation season to accommodate the tens of thousands of passengers whose flights were scrubbed.
Airlines have been putting more people in each plane, so when a system of a major carrier crashes, as has happened with others before Delta, finding a new seat for the waylaid becomes more difficult.
Last month, the average Delta flight was 87 percent full. Confusion among passengers Monday was compounded as Delta’s flight-status updates crashed as well. Instead of staying home or poolside at a hotel until the troubles blew over, many passengers only learned about the quagmire only after they passed through airport security.
They were stuck. The disruption was so deeply rooted Monday that at one point, the airline warned travelers that information on its website, its app, and even given by its own employees in airports, may be outdated.
“By the time I showed up at the gate the employees were already disgruntled, and it was really difficult to get anybody to speak to me or get any information,” said Ashley Roache, whose flight from Lexington, Kentucky, to New York’s LaGuardia Airport was delayed. “The company could have done a better job of explaining … what was happening.”
Delta spokesman Trebor Banstetter said that after the power outage, key systems and network equipment did not switch over to backups. The investigation of the outage is ongoing, but Banstetter said that there is no indication that the problems were caused by a hack or intentional breach of the system.
Georgia Power, which controls the system where the outage began, said it appears that a failure of Delta equipment caused the airline’s power disruption. No other customers lost power, a spokesman said. Delta Air Lines Inc. is the third-largest in the world by number of passengers carried, with 138.8 million travelers last year, according to industry group IATA, but it ranks just behind American Airlines and Southwest Airlines.
Airlines depend on huge, overlapping and complicated systems to operate flights, ticketing, boarding, airport kiosks, websites and mobile phone apps. Even brief outages can now snarl traffic and, as the Delta incident shows, those problems can go global in seconds.
Last month, Southwest Airlines canceled more than 2,000 flights over four days after an outage that it blamed on a faulty network router. United Airlines suffered a series of massive IT meltdowns after combining its technology systems with those of merger partner Continental Airlines.
Lines for British Airways at some airports have grown longer as the carrier updates its systems. Delta employees were forced into something of a time machine as they did their best to get people to where they were going. Agents at many airports were using pen and paper to create boarding passes. In Tokyo, a dot-matrix printer was resurrected to keep track of passengers on a flight to Shanghai.
Some passengers said they were shocked that computer glitches could cause such turmoil. Others took it in stride. Ryan Shannon, another passenger on the Lexington-to-New York flight, said passengers boarded, were asked to exit, waited about 90 minutes and then got back on the plane.
Once Delta cleared flights to take off, “we boarded and didn’t have any problems. There is always a delay, or weather, or something. I travel weekly, so I’m used to it,” Shannon said.
AP radio correspondent Julie Walker in New York, Bree Fowler in Las Vegas, Joseph Pisani in New York and Jeff Martin in Atlanta contributed to this report. – AP