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Air Travel Delays with United Airlines Computer Glitch

United Airlines Logo & PlaneOn Friday and early Saturday morning, United Airlines experienced a computer outage for 5 hours that virtually shut the carrier down. Thousands of passengers saw their flight information disappear from airport screens, and many of them became stranded as the airline delayed 105 flights and cancelled 31 services around the world. Airline spokeswoman Mary Clark said that she couldn’t say how many travellers were delayed or still needed to get to where they were going. All that she and other personnel could say was that the outage was caused by a ‘network connectivity issue.’

The computer glitch was fixed and the carrier back online by 3am EST on Saturday, with the airline tweeting that flight status and rebookings were fully refreshed. However, United Airlines passengers flying over the weekend were advised to print their boarding pass at home rather than at the kiosks at the airport in case there were any backlogs. Some have even warned that there could be delays today (Monday).

The disruption happened late enough on Friday that many of the flight cancellations were for the last services out for the day, according to Forrester Research airline analyst Henry Harteveldt. If this had happened during the week, the results could have been worse. However, there were still a lot of travellers that were unhappy about the disruption.

Even so, United Airlines cancels 15-30 flights in a typical day due to fog, maintenance, shortage of staff, etc. The Northeast blizzard last December caused over 10,000 flights to be cancelled in a 3-day period, while another storm in mid-January led to almost 9,000 services being cancelled. These are understandable issues to passengers, who say that a computer glitch shouldn’t ground a carrier. Most other industries would still be able to conduct business if their computers went down.

The incident bluntly showed how dependent the aviation industry is on computers to handle their business – much more so than ever. Customer service and reservations are mostly automated, while flight paths are even being generated by computers more and more. Plus, passengers are being asked to check-in online, their mobile phone or at airport kiosks instead of with an agent, while boarding passes are being put on smart phones, making paper tickets obsolete.

Although there is some concern about computer glitches bringing a halt to air travel, it appears that airlines are destined to be more reliant on the technology. This is because, last week, Airbus revealed its vision for planes by 2050. In a video, there was no interaction seen between passengers and human staff, nor was there a cockpit with pilots. If this is what the future has in store for aviation, computers will need to be free of any kind of bug to be completely reliable.



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