Computer glitch affects Delta subsidiary

A computer malfunction temporarily shut down the flight dispatch system used by a Delta Air Lines Inc. subsidiary Monday, causing flight cancellations and delays that affected operations all day long across the unit’s entire travel network in the eastern United States and Canada.

Atlantic Southeast Airlines (ASA), which flies between major hubs such as New York and Atlanta and numerous smaller cities, said in an advisory posted on Delta’s Web site that the glitch occurred early Monday morning and “resulted in a temporary outage of its computer-based flight dispatch system.”

The dispatch system provides pilots and flight crews with vital data, such as flight plans, weather forecasts, fuel information and alternate airports that could be used to make emergency landings. ASA spokesman Sam Watts said today that airline personnel were forced to copy the information down by hand and deliver it to the flight crews until the outage was fixed.

Delta Technologies, which handles technical support for Atlanta-based ASA, is currently reviewing the system to ensure it has the “functionality and redundancy” needed to prevent reoccurrences of Monday’s outage, Watts said. Until the review is completed, he added, the airline would not be able to say whether the shutdown was caused by a hardware problem, a software glitch or a complete systems failure.

The IT problems forced ASA to cancel more than 200 flights and to delay about the same number of planes, according to Watts. The Delta Connection carrier operates an average of 679 flights daily from 78 airports, so “a very significant number of flights were impacted,” he said.

ASA said the systems breakdown was resolved by 3 p.m. Eastern time, after which it was able to resume issuing computer-based flight dispatch notices to its crews. But it took an additional three to four hours “to get everything moving in terms of airplanes and [the] passengers that had to be rerouted,” Watts said.

ASA said in Monday’s statement that it worked throughout the day to make alternate flight arrangements for customers who were affected by the cancellations and delays. That process was due to continue until all ticketed passengers who needed to change flights were accommodated, the airline added.