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Power cut crashes Delta's worldwide flight update systems

Thousands flightless after UPS proves pretty interruptible

By Gavin Clarke, 8 Aug 2016

Updated A computer outage has caused worldwide delays for thousands of passengers using Delta Airlines.

The US carrier tweeted about the issues on Monday morning, blaming delayed and cancelled flights on a “computer outage."

Delta, based in Atlanta, Georgia, subsequently blamed the crash on a massive power cut at 2.38am ET (7.38am BST) that has seemingly taken down the servers running in-flight status, information on airport screens, its delta.com website, its airport systems and even its app.

Delta operates up to 54,000 flights each day, owns a major stake in Virgin Atlantic and partners with KLM, Air France and Alitalia.

The airline did not elaborate on the nature of the "computer problem", but there were reports of staff using a “back-up system” to check in passengers.

The outage is reported to have affected passengers at airports in the US and Asia in addition to London’s Heathrow.

Twitter was rife with 147-character snapshots of human misery with Delta passengers at Heathrow waiting for at least an hour and a half.

The most recent airline to be taken down by computer-related problems was US budget airline Southwest Airlines in July. It was forced to cancel more than 2,000 flights when a fault with its systems prevented passengers checking in or boarding flights.

Before that, Qantas and Virgin Australia’s systems were scuppered in January 2015.

Then the Altea reservation system used by the two antipodean airlines and run by Amadeus was taken down by a bug in Linux that didn’t recognise leap seconds – the system crashed as a leap second was added to the world’s clocks.

Altea, one of the largest computer travel reservation systems on the planet, was taken down for 48 minutes with check-in staff having to turn to paper.

Delta is one of the world's few airlines to own and operate a reservation system. It bought the data and system it uses from Travelport in May 2014.

Richard Anderson, Delta chief executive, at the time called the Travelport system a "data and operational backbone" that runs 180 applications for Delta.

"By bringing the systems along with the highly skilled people who support them under Delta's direct management, we gain greater flexibility and control over the technology enhancements that will continue to improve our operational performance and passenger experience," he said in a statement. It would also help Delta realise "share holder value," he said.

One observer took a different perspective, calling Delta's decision "gutsy."

Are you chewing on stale pizza and hissing under your breath in their server room? Send us an email detailing the ballsup – we're all ears. ®

Update:

A Reg reader, a ex-Sabre staffer with contacts at Delta, got in touch to tell us Delta had experienced problems with a UPS at its Atlanta data centre. Delta tried to failover to a backup but the UPS failed, causing the blackout.

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