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Are outages like the one afflicting Delta becoming more common?

Flights are beginning to resume after Delta Air Lines experienced a major computer system outage Monday that grounded flights worldwide.

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    In this April 14, 2015, file photo, Delta Airlines passengers watch as a Delta plane taxis at Atlanta's Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta.
    Charles Rex Arbogast/AP/File
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Is airline IT more vulnerable than it should be?

Delta Air Lines experienced a major computer system outage on Monday, preventing passengers from checking in and grounding flights worldwide. The glitch downed IT systems “everywhere,” the company confirmed. The company said that some flights have resumed, but that customers should still expect cancellations and long wait times. 

Large-scale cancellations are expected today,” Delta said in a statement. “All flights enroute are operating normally. We are aware that flight status systems, including airport screens, are incorrectly showing flights on time. We apologize to customers who are affected by this issue, and our teams are working to resolve the problem as quickly as possible.”

The outage, which began in Atlanta around 2:30 a.m. EDT, had yet to be resolved as of Monday morning, the Associated Press reports. Delta has not specified the exact nature of the glitch, which disrupted check-in processes and affected the airline’s website. The company advised travelers to check the status of their flights until the issue could be addressed.

Airlines are increasingly relying on digital systems to manage their operations. Many have adopted automated security lanes in an attempt to cut long wait times and curb missed flights. But as systems become more sophisticated, outages may become more severe.

In July, a similar computer outage prompted Southwest Airlines to cancel nearly 2,000 flights. The carrier offered fare sales and free rescheduling until the issue was resolved three days later, USA Today reported.

As in the Southwest outage, technical difficulties can persist for days even after a glitch is resolved. And with millions of flights embarking every year, even small outages can have serious repercussions.

Delta ran nearly 900,000 flights in 2015, making it the second-busiest US airline. Southwest, which conducted over 1.2 million flights, was the busiest. Delay prevention has become an imperative for these and other airlines, no matter the cost. American Airlines has been accused of rushing flights in order to avoid delays, The Christian Science Monitor reported in July.

Delta shares fell more than 25 percent this year, the Wall Street Journal reports, as concerns of overcapacity prompt an overall slump in airline shares.

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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