Yesterday saw the failing of American Airlines reservation systems and the grounding of thousands of passengers nationwide. The problem began just before noon and was cleared up late in the afternoon. Flights that were already in the air were allowed to continue to their destinations, but no new flights were allowed to take off until the outage was corrected. Reservation systems handle much more than simple booking or the problem would not have caused the cascade of delays for the nation’s third largest carrier.
Airlines commonly rely on such systems to track passengers and bags, update flight schedules and gate assignments, and file flight plants. The computers also help determine how much fuel to put in an aircraft or which seats should be filled to balance a plane.
“There was a time when an airline could fly without a reservation system, but those days for the most part are past,” said Scott Nason, American’s former technology chief and now a consultant.
If their reservation systems go down, “most airlines would be pretty much without the ability to fly more than a very limited number of flights,” he said.
“Tensions are high. A lot of people are getting mad. I’ve seen several yelling at the American agents,” said Julie Burch, a business-meeting speaker who was stuck at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport waiting for a flight to Denver. “Nobody can tell us anything.”
Those lack of answers, and the amount of fliers with smartphones saw thousands take to social media to berate American with rants and complaints. American did their best to deal with the delays by booking passengers that needed to fly yesterday on other airlines and paying for the fare difference. For those that could delay their travels refunds and waivers were granted to passengers. The only trouble with this is that neither were able to be processed while the system was down.
All in all, American Airlines and its sister airline American Eagle cancelled 970 flights and delayed at least 1,068 more by early evening Tuesday.
While technology enhances are daily lives greatly, yesterday served as a reminder of just how dependent we have become on it and how lost we are when it fails for a few hours.