What’s the worst that can go wrong if you have a software issue? If “my mobile app crashes” or “I didn’t anticipate this much traffic and my website won’t load” is the first thing that comes to mind, consider yourself lucky (though those are issues). If you’re not lucky, your software could be hacked and user information could be corrupted or stolen. Or, if you are American Airlines earlier this week, a software problem could have grounded your entire fleet.
On Tuesday, the airline’s entire reservation system crashed, forcing the company to delay all their flights nationally and effectively rendering the airline unable to update their passengers via app or even the status boards in airports.The problem started sometime just before noon, according to a timeline on DallasNews.com.
A caller from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport says that “nothing is moving.” The status boards show flights on time, but the boards aren’t being updated, he said.
When he checked American’s system, it said his flight was on time, although it was already in a long delay.
The computer problems that are delaying American’s flights and messing up its reservation system are apparently also giving outdated information to airport display boards and online flight-tracking systems.
Any AA flights that hadn’t already departed before the system crash were subsequently grounded. Gathering data from FlightStats.com, Dallas News reported that 417 AA flights had been canceled as of 3 pm – a 35% cancellation rate for the day. American Eagle had slightly lower cancellation rate of 32% – also 417 flights. When all is said and done, USA Today is reporting that more than 1,000 flights were ultimately cancelled because of the issue – two-thirds of the fleet’s scheduled flights.
The problem can be traced back to one computer system that failed. From the New York Times:
The airline said the issue was caused by an inability to get access to its reservations system, called Sabre. The electronic system, often described as the brains of an airline, is responsible for bookings and reservations but also manages a wide variety of functions related to flights, including printing boarding passes, online check-ins, ticketing, and tracking checked bags.
Sabre, meanwhile, said the issue did not come from its own computer systems. Other airlines, including Southwest Airlines and JetBlue, use the reservation system and have not experienced any outages, said Nancy St. Pierre, a spokeswoman for Sabre.