By Aramie Louisville Vas
Thousands of air travelers in the New York City and Washington D.C. area found themselves in “airport hell” on Saturday after a major computer glitch caused delays and cancellations in travel.
The FAA was forced to temporarily halt all departures from D.C.’s three major airports. Repercussions were far-reaching; according to FlightAware, there were 3,400 delays and 640 cancelled flights originating or flying into the United States on Saturday.
While customers and air personnel alike experienced their share of frustration and anger over the situation, there was a marked “relief,” according to air traveler Lisa Picard, “that [the cause] wasn’t terror.”
Many endured waits of up to five hours, only to be told their flights could not be re-booked for days, while others spent three hours simply trying to claim their luggage. Still other travelers scrapped their flight plans all together and struck out for their destinations by car. Most, however, played the tedious airport waiting game while important events, meetings and travel plans were either renegotiated, or called off completely.
The root of the glitch, caused by a power outage at a Virginia Air Traffic Control Center, appears to be a lack of an appropriate backup system. CNN Safety Analyst Dan Soucie commented that most people have backup for home computer systems in case of power loss. Soucie noted that “hundreds of millions of dollars” were approved by the FAA and Congress to ensure that airline computers don’t have to reboot every time there is a loss of power. “It appears,” said Soucie, “that system didn’t work here.”
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