Computer glitch halts Homeland Security checks at five US airports

The disruption lasted about 90 minutes on Wednesday and there have been no indications the glitch was malicious in nature, officials said.

Mark Lennihan/AP/File
Planes taxi on runways at John F. Kennedy International Airport, Sept. 8, 2008 in New York. A computer outage at the Department of Homeland Security caused major delays at Kennedy and other US airports on Wednesday night.

A computer system operated by the US Department of Homeland Security that checks airline passengers coming through customs against terrorism watch lists went down at five airports Wednesday night, federal officials said. 

The disruption lasted about 90 minutes and there have been no indications the glitch was malicious in nature, US Customs and Border Protection said in a statement.

Customs and Border Protection officers processed international travelers using alternative procedures during the outage, the agency said.

Customs and Border Protection did not say which US airports experienced disruptions, but NBC News reported delays in security screenings at New York City's John F. Kennedy Airport, with similar problems reported in Boston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Charlotte, North Carolina, and Baltimore.

Erin Prince, a corporate executive, told CNNMoney she encountered trouble with her United Airlines flight coming back from London on Wednesday. Her direct flight to Maryland was diverted for a layover in Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey.

Airlines couldn't use computers and had "to comb through passenger records manually," Ms. Prince said. 

"There was considerable confusion," she told CNNMoney. "The staff were calm and polite, but it appeared they had limited information as well."

This is not the first time technology issues have wreaked havoc at US airports in recent memory.

Airline mergers, and the software updates that are included, along with efforts by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to modernize have caused recent hiccups. 

In August, a new GPS system implemented by the FAA at an air traffic control tower in Virginia went down causing nearly 1,000 delays or cancellations in the northeast. 

Following its merger with Continental in 2010, United – the nation's second-largest airline – struggled through a series of computer outages causing hundreds of flight delays

United said more than 800 flights were delayed and about 60 were canceled because of a router issue last July. The airline also grounded about 150 plans planes in the US in June because of a problem in its flight-dispatching system. 

In April, more than 50 American Airlines flights were delayed when problems with pilots' tablet computers prevented them from seeing airport maps. 

This report contains material from Reuters and The Associated Press.

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