Sprint Nextel Corp.’s service was disrupted in Northern California, Oregon and Washington today, an outage that delayed flights for Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air and affected more than 6,000 passengers.
The disruption was caused by two severed fiber-optic cables early this morning, said Crystal Davis, a spokeswoman for Sprint. The first was near a railroad between Chicago and Milwaukee, followed shortly afterward by one between Tacoma, Washington, and Portland, Oregon, she said. Service was restored by 1:30 p.m. on the West Coast.
The incident dealt a black eye to Sprint as it tries to burnish its customer-service record. The Overland Park, Kansas-based company’s ratings have gone from worst to first in the industry, according to a report in May by American Customer Satisfaction Index, a ranking created by the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.
Alaska Air Group Inc., which owns Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air, lost its connection to Sabre, the computer system that lets passengers make reservations, check in and buy tickets. In a separate statement, the Seattle-based airline said it lost the connection between 7:30 a.m. and noon local time. Sabre is operated by closely held Sabre Holdings Corp.
By noon, the airlines had canceled 70 flights, Alaska Air said. Some flights that did depart left four hours late, the company said.
“We apologize for this disruption to our customers,” Alaska Air Chief Executive Officer Brad Tilden said in the statement. “We’ve been working aggressively with Sprint and Sabre to get our operations back to normal as quickly as possible and will maintain our efforts until we get all of our customers where they need to go.”
Shares of Sprint, which ranks behind Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc. in U.S. mobile-phone customers, fell 2.1 percent to $5.09 today in New York. The stock has more than doubled this year.