Delta’s U.S. Grounding Lifted After Latest Computer Glitch

  • International flights weren’t affected, FAA advisory said
  • Delta issue comes just a week after United grounded flights

Delta Air Lines Inc. started resuming U.S. domestic flights after a 2 1/2-hour computer breakdown grounded about 170 flights and left passengers stranded across the country.

About 80 flights scheduled for Monday have been scrapped and additional cancellations are possible, the airline said. The Federal Aviation Administration said “automation issues” at Delta were to blame. International flights weren’t affected. 

“I want to apologize to all of our customers who have been impacted by this frustrating situation,” Delta Chief Executive Officer Ed Bastian said in a statement earlier. “This type of disruption is not acceptable.”

Marooned at Houston, Atlanta, Minneapolis and other regional airports, passengers who got stuck in lines or in stationary aircraft took to social media. It was the second disruption among major U.S. domestic airlines in just one week, after United Continental Holdings Inc. grounded U.S. flights following a computer failure. 

The United outage also lasted about two and a half hours, though resulted in relatively few cancellations.

Hub Delays

Even if they landed on time, some Delta passengers were delayed on arrival at the airline’s hub airports, the Atlanta-based carrier said. Complicating matters further, not all delays and cancellations were showing up on Delta’s own systems, including its main website, it said.

Delta, the second-largest U.S. airline, operates almost 6,000 flights a day during peak summer months, according to a Delta release from August. The airline operates more than 800 aircraft and flies almost 180 million passengers a year.

The latest problem at Delta struck just as airlines struggled to comply with new travel restrictions following President Donald Trump’s executive order blocking travelers from seven predominantly Muslim nations. Parts of the order were temporarily blocked by judges.

Last year, a rash of computer failures disrupted flight operations at U.S. airlines. Thousands of passengers were stranded as carriers struggled to keep older information systems working. 

Delta took a $100 million hit to sales after a power-control module at the company’s Atlanta command center caught fire in August, cutting power to computers. Southwest Airlines Co. had to halt flights the month before that because of issues with “multiple technology systems.”

Ground stops, as the FAA calls them, are relatively common reactions to thunderstorms and other disruptions in the U.S. aviation system. They are typically short-lived and narrowly drawn, such as halting departures to a congested airport for an hour or two.

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