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Crash datacenter Delta airlines (Achtergrond informatie)

10-12-2016 - Nieuws

Delta Malfunction on Land Keeps a Fleet of Planes From the Sky


Delta Cancels Hundreds of Flights

Delta Airlines canceled hundreds of flights after its computer systems crashed worldwide on Monday. People reacted to the delays.

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS on Publish Date August 8, 2016. Photo by Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel, via Associated Press. Watch in Times Video »

Delta Air Lines is working to reset its operations on Tuesday morning, after a power failure grounded flights and led to cancellations and delays a day earlier. As of 12:30 p.m. Eastern time, Delta had canceled more than 500 flights scheduled for Tuesday.

On Monday, around 1,000 of 6,000 Delta flights were canceled, the airline said.

Delta is offering full refunds — and $200 vouchers — to passengers whose flights were canceled or delayed significantly. The airline also extended a waiver of its change fee for passengers scheduled to fly on Monday, Aug. 8, and Tuesday, Aug. 9.

Passengers may rebook flights for any day up to Friday, without being charged a difference in fare. The company said it provided hotel rooms, where available, to some passengers who were stranded in airports overnight.

In Depth:

The big computer systems that get airplanes, passengers and baggage to their destinations every day are having a bad summer.

Delta Air Lines experienced the latest debacle on Monday, when a failure of a piece of electrical equipment at one of its Atlanta facilities shut down its computer systems worldwide, starting a cascade of hundreds of canceled and delayed flights throughout the day.

A similar chain of events played out at Southwest Airlines three weeks earlier, when a single notebook-size router failed at a data center in Dallas, resulting in about 2,300 canceled flights over four days. The failure itself lasted only an hour, but it took 13 hours to reboot the carrier’s computer systems.

Both episodes left thousands of passengers stranded and airline employees scrambling to get planes back in the air. But for those wondering how this could happen — why backup systems, for example, were not equal to the challenge — a better question might be why it doesn’t happen more often.

“These systems are so complex, it’s surprising we haven’t had more major failures,” said Bob Offutt, principal of Travel Technology Consulting and former chief architect at Sabre, the world’s largest computer reservations system.

These events are hardly isolated. Last year, malfunctions in United Airlines’ computer systems grounded hundreds of flights, and American Airlines experienced delays after a bug in its iPad software meant that pilots did not have accurate airport maps.

In Southwest’s case, a backup system was in place, but the airline said that system was not triggered as it should have been when the router failed. And Delta said on Monday that it was investigating why some of its own critical operations had not switched over to backup systems.

“In the case of Delta, whatever occurred was clearly a catastrophic failure, and it is alarming that the backup system didn’t kick in,” said Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst at Atmosphere Research Group.

Delta said the problem was touched off by a power failure about 2:30 a.m. Eastern, shutting down computers and grounding flights for about six hours before the airline began to bring its systems back online. (As it happens, the culprit inside Delta — a failed switchgear, an item similar to a circuit-breaker box in a house — is a piece of equipment typically installed to guard against breakdowns.)

Throughout the day, the consequences were playing out in human terms.

In Terminal C of La Guardia Airport, a central hub for Delta in the New York City region, it was standing room only Monday morning, with children splayed out napping on backpacks, business travelers scrambling for outlets, and many passengers leaning against the cylindrical pillars for support.

As the morning wore on and the system began to slowly reboot, occasional problems also caused more confusion.

“For those of you traveling to Detroit on Flight 831,” a gate agent said over the loudspeaker, “you may have just received a text message saying we are departing at 9 a.m.” That, she indicated, would be great, but also nearly impossible. The computer system had shut back down before the pilot’s papers, including the flight plan, could even be processed.

In Phoenix, Anthony Navarro, 25, was headed to Atlanta, and then to Miami for a cruise to the Bahamas. He and a friend boarded a flight scheduled to leave Phoenix at 12:35 a.m., but then sat in the plane, parked at the gate, for about five hours.

When he realized he would miss their connection, Mr. Navarro left the plane and said he would seek a refund from both Delta and Norwegian Cruises.


Delta Air Lines passengers waited in line at a ticket counter in Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey on Monday. Credit Seth Wenig/Associated Press

“We had been planning this trip for months, and to find out that based off of one flight, everything is canceled,” he said, “we’re very bummed out.”

Some departures resumed Monday morning, but the company said it expected delays to cascade throughout the day. As of 7 p.m. Eastern, 740 Delta flights had been canceled, the airline said. It did not provide a figure for the number of passengers affected.

Delta was scheduled to operate roughly 6,000 departures on Monday, and by the early evening, about 3,340 of those flights had departed discover this. “Systems are fully operational and flights resumed hours ago,” the airline said, “but delays and cancellations remain as recovery efforts continue into the evening.”

While it is too early to measure the costs to Delta, Southwest has said its malfunction on July 20 will cost the company tens of millions of dollars.

Airlines were early adopters of information technology, building electronic reservation systems in the 1960s. The systems have been rebuilt over the years, but given the high volume of transactions, their data is not backed up continuously, Mr. Offutt said.


He said that while airlines did have secondary systems in place — to provide power during a power failure, for example — the data was backed up only a few times each day, rather than in real time. That means that even after a malfunctioning router or power source is fixed, it can take hours to bring the systems back online.

“The systems are very complicated, so it may be that they have a backup processor, but not backup data,” he said.

Major airlines primarily use third-party processors like Sabre, Amadeus and Travelport to distribute their real-time flight data to travel booking sites like Expedia and Travelocity. They also contract with these services to run their own internal reservation systems, as well as their departure control systems to process boarding, last-minute bookings and seat assignments.

Delta uses an in-house system to process passenger services and flight operations, but the system infrastructure is run by Travelport in its Atlanta data center. Southwest uses Sabre for its domestic reservations and Amadeus for its international bookings, though it is migrating everything to the Amadeus system.

Each passenger on each plane represents multiple transactions: Each seat assignment, meal preference, child requirement and frequent-flier number is a separate log. Andrea Huguely, a spokeswoman for Sabre, said that each minute its system processed 164,000 requests and approximately $250,000 worth of travel spending.

Airlines, of course, are only one of many industries with complex systems whose failure can be catastrophic. Many companies, like banks and large financial traders, manage the risk by copying data to service areas powered by different data centers, so they can continue working in the event of a malfunction.

Delta did not elaborate on the nature of its own backup systems, beyond saying it was investigating their failure.

The airline said it would grant full refunds to passengers whose flights were canceled or significantly delayed. (“Significant” is determined case by case, said Michael Thomas, a Delta spokesman.) In addition, it said it would provide $200 in travel vouchers to customers who were delayed more than three hours or whose flight was canceled.


The company is also waiving the change fee for flights scheduled for Monday. Passengers may rebook those flights for any day up to Friday, without being charged a difference in fare.

Josh Hall, 31, whose company develops simulation software for military use, said he was steps away from the terminal in Minneapolis when he received the alert that his 1 p.m. flight to London through Orlando had been delayed.

The first leg of his trip was delayed at least five hours, with no clear indication when he would actually get to London.

“It would have been nice if they’d alerted me,” he said. “I would have done something else with my time.”

So instead of heading overseas to meet clients, Mr. Hall was passing the time watching the Olympics. He had had two whiskeys, but was starting on some water.

“I’d just like to get on the plane,” he said.

Reporting was contributed by Nick Corasaniti, Hiroko Tabuchi, Quentin Hardy, Diane Cardwell and Nicole Perlroth.

A version of this article appears in print on August 9, 2016, on page B1 of the New York edition with the headline: When a Small Malfunction on Land Keeps a Fleet of Planes From the Sky.

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Crash datacenter Delta airlines (Achtergrond informatie)