According to Associated Press, on Tuesday, April 16, the computer systems of one of the U.S. major airline companies, American Airlines were brought out of operation. The company cancelled 970 flights and 1 068 were delayed. Those planes that had already taken off were allowed to continue the flight while the others were forbidden to depart.
The cause of the delay and cancellation lied in a problem with the computer reservation system, which does much more than just booking tickets. Systems of the type are often used for passenger and baggage tracking, flight schedules updates, etc. Computers are also used to calculate the amount of required fuel, as well as to distribute passenger seats on board of the plane to make for its trim control.
Thousands of people were waiting at the airport and the reasons of flights being cancelled were not explained. According to one of the passengers, airport staff continued their work manually. Theoretically, monitoring passengers’ data, their baggage and tickets can be performed manually. But this works only in case with small number of passengers. Experts pointed out that in the past the U.S. airline companies could operate without reservation systems, but it is not possible anymore.
According to Scott Nason, American's former technology chief and now a consultant, if the reservation systems go down, “most airlines would be pretty much without the ability to fly more than a very limited number of flights.”
The systems were fixed by 4:30 p.m. on April 17.