U.S. airports rumble back to life after FAA computer outage

WASHINGTON, Jan 11 (Reuters) – U.S. flights are back to normal after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) tried to fix a system outage overnight that forced the grounding of all U.S. flights.

The cause of a problem with the pilot alert system that delayed thousands of flights in the United States is not known, but US officials say they have so far found no evidence of a cyber attack.

After the December holiday travel season, there was a break in the historically slow period for US travel, but airlines said demand remains strong as travel continues to recover to pre-pandemic levels.

“Normal air traffic is slowly resuming across the U.S. after the Air Mission Alert system, which provides safety information to flight crews, was disrupted overnight. The ground stop has been lifted. We continue to investigate the cause of the original problem,” the FAA tweeted.

The number of affected flights continued to grow even after ground stops were suspended. One of the problems airlines face is trying to get planes out of crowded gates, which also leads to delays.

More than 5,400 flights were delayed and 900 canceled, according to the website FlightAware, as officials said it would take several hours for flights to recover from the disruption.

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The FAA had previously ordered airlines to ground all domestic flights after the pilot warning system failed, and the agency had to do a hard reset at 2 a.m., officials said.

The FAA is expected to implement a ground delay program to address the backlog of flights that have been grounded for several hours. Previously, flights already in the air were allowed to continue to their destinations after landing.

US President Joe Biden ordered the Department of Transportation to investigate the outage and said the cause of the outage was not yet known. Asked whether a cyber attack was behind the blackout, Biden answered questions from reporters at the White House: “We don’t know.

Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg promised “a process to identify root causes and recommend next steps”.

Modernization is NEEDED

Chicago-based United said it had resumed operations, but warned that customers may continue to see some delays and cancellations.

U.S. airline stocks initially fell in early trading on Wednesday, but most rose after the market opened into positive territory after flights resumed.

Southwest Airlines ( LUV.N ) fell 0.17%, while Delta Air Lines Inc ( DAL.N ), United Airlines ( UAL.O ) and American Airlines ( AAL.O ) were down 1.1%, 1.5% respectively. % and increased by 0.4%. . JetBlue ( JBLU.O ) was also acquired.

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A trade group representing the U.S. travel industry, including airlines, called the FAA system breach “catastrophic.”

“America’s transportation industry is in need of a major overhaul,” said Jeff Freeman, president of the US Travel Association, in a statement. “We call on federal policymakers to modernize our airline infrastructure.”

Maria Cantwell, chairwoman of the Senate Commerce Committee, said the commission would investigate. “We will investigate what caused this outage and what role overtime can play in preventing future outages,” he said. “The public needs a sustainable air transportation system.”

The FAA system outage comes weeks after an operational meltdown at Southwest stranded thousands of passengers late last year.

A severe winter storm just before Christmas forced the cancellation of more than 16,000 flights last month, with Texas airline technology out of date.

The DOT, the FAA’s lead agency, criticized Southwest’s shortcomings and demanded that the airline compensate passengers. There is no legal requirement that the FAA compensate passengers for flight delays caused by the agency’s computer problems.


A NOTAM is a message containing information necessary for personnel concerned with flight operations but not known in advance for publication by other means. A ground stop is an air traffic control measure that slows down or stops an aircraft at a given airport.

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The information can be up to 200 pages for long-haul international flights and can include things like runway closures, bird hazard warnings and construction obstructions.

United Airlines ( UAL.O ) said it has temporarily grounded all domestic flights and will update when it learns more from the FAA.

German airlines Lufthansa and Air France said they were continuing flights to and from the US, while the French airline said it was monitoring the situation.

Earlier this month, a problem with another airline’s computer control system delayed dozens of flights in Florida.

A total of 21,464 flights are expected to depart from United States airports on Wednesday, with a capacity of about 2.9 million passengers, data from Cirium showed.

American Airlines flies the most from U.S. airports with 4,819 flights, followed by Delta and Southwest, Cirium data shows.

Live: View of flights departing from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport

Reporting by Doina Chiaku and David Shepardson in Washington, Abhijit Ganapavaram in Bengaluru, Jamie Freed in Sydney and Rajesh Kumar Singh in Chicago; Additional reporting by Nathan Gomes and Steve Holland in Washington Writing by Shailesh Kuber and Alexander Smith Editing by Edmund Blair and Nick Zieminski

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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