United Airlines computer glitch creates cascade of delays

A computer glitch grounded all United domestic flights for about two hours on Sunday evening, causing further delays to ripple across the United States.

Louis Nastro/Reuters/File
A United Airlines Boeing 787 taxis as a United Airlines Boeing 767 lands at San Francisco International Airport in 2015.

United Airlines grounded all domestic flights for about two hours on Sunday evening, after a computer glitch struck their system.

Leading to six cancellations and 200 delays, it was the latest IT issue to cause the airline problems in recent months. And United is not the only carrier to have suffered such setbacks of late, as the complexity of the computer systems in charge make it all but impossible to proceed when they malfunction.

On this occasion, it was only internal US flights that were affected, and the company has implemented a travel waiver whereby passengers can rebook flights for no extra charge, provided the class, city of departure, and destination all remain the same.

Just last October, a similar problem caused delays to United flights worldwide. That followed an incident in July, when some 4,900 flights globally were grounded. Less than two months earlier, all takeoffs in the United States were halted after computer issues.

And United is not unique in wrestling with recent IT glitches. Air Canada and Porter Airlines (based in Toronto) were forced to cancel flights due to computer malfunctions just last week. Delta Air Lines had to cancel some 2,000 flights in August, after a power outage incapacitated computer systems. British Airways experienced similar disruption the following month.

So, what’s to be done?

It seems unlikely that airlines are going to abandon computer systems anytime soon, but researchers continue to develop means of more accurately predicting delays, and of being able to inform customers more quickly about their predicament and decreasing confusion – and frustrations – about the cause of delays.

Researchers at Binghamton University in New York, for example, announced in November that they had devised a new computer model that can “more accurately predict delays faster than anything currently in use.”

The model can better account for qualitative factors, like the weather, instead of numerical variables, using past flights' data to predict future hiccups. 

The main thrust of the project, study lead author Sina Khanmohammadi said in a press release, was “to provide more accurate delay information to the customers, and hence gain customer loyalty.”

This report contains material from Reuters and the Associated Press.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to United Airlines computer glitch creates cascade of delays
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today