United Airlines recovering from glitch

This photo sent in by ABC7 UReporter Jason Huggins, @hugs on Twitter, shows several hundred United Airways passengers waiting at San Francisco International Airport Friday evening.
June 18, 2011 5:36:54 PM PDT
The long wait continues for hundreds of United Airlines passengers after a system-wide computer meltdown left them stranded yesterday and today.

Thousands continue to be stranded at airports across the country, with a handful of those thousand stuck at San Francisco International Airport.

There was a renewed sense of urgency at the United terminal on Saturday with the goal of getting as many passengers out of the airport and into the air as quickly as possible.

Computers at both United Airlines and Continental Airlines, which recently merged with United, went down at 5:15 p.m. Friday afternoon, leaving thousands stuck at the airport.

"(I'm) pissed off and not happy," passenger Eugene Harris told ABC7 News on Friday.

The computers came back online about five hours later, but passenger sentiment on Saturday wasn't much better.

"I'm really mad," said passenger George Liesen. "I have a 36-or-more-hour delay."

The catch up is painful for United since the system-wide outage interrupted flight departures, processing and reservations. A total of 31 flights operated by United were outright canceled.

The cancellations don't take into account the widespread delays. Passengers stuck at the airport or at home are finding that re-booking isn't easy.

"We should be the (are booked) first," said Campbell resident Omer Quershi, "and they said everything is jam packed because of the whole thing, and you just have to bear with us."

Another passenger said the lines at United's counters were too lengthy.

"It's just too many lines," passenger Rhonda Williams said. "Too long. They're not very organized."

According to travel industry analyst Henry Hartevel, the process of recovering from this incident will be just as important as how the outage occurred itself -- and United must come up with better back-up plans.

"What the airlines need to do is take a look and figure out if this happened outside their control, what they can do to reduce that, and if it's a vendor problem or if it was an outage," Hartevel said. "If someone cut a line, if it was within their control, do they need to have more redundant systems than they already have?"

Recently, US Airways and Virgin America had system failures which caused operational delays. Both incidents were blamed on forces outside of the airliner's control.

It's still not known what caused the computer failure at United, but the company is offering a one-time date or time changed and a refund if any of the passengers cancel their trip altogether. United says it hopes to have all flights operating normally by the end of the weekend.

The computer outage affected the airports in San Jose and Oakland to a lesser extent because United is not a major carrier there.


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