Thousands of Travelers Stranded in Latest Flight-Related Mess

August 27, 2008 12:05 PM
by Cara McDonough
The FAA is investigating a computer glitch that delayed over 600 planes Tuesday. Flights were back on track for the most part by Wednesday morning, but will passengers come back?

Passengers Stranded in Airports

Airports in the northeast were hardest hit by the computer problem reported by the Federal Aviation Administration Tuesday afternoon, which occurred at a Hampton, Ga., facility that processes flight plans for the eastern half of the country.

FAA spokeswoman Diane Spitaliere said she was not sure when an investigation into the problem would be completed, but it “usually takes a while to be quite honest,” reported the Associated Press.

The agency did say that the software issue, which resulted in a communication problem between the Georgia facility and another facility in Salt Lake City, did not cause any safety problems; officials were still able to speak to pilots in the air and on the ground.

The issue first surfaced at about 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. At Hartfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta, there were flight delays of about 90 minutes for departures, and arriving flights were being held.

Delays at other airports were much longer—up to two hours in some cases—CNN reported, but the delays began to clear at about 5 p.m. and were pretty much resolved by 9:30 p.m. Some airports, including Newark and LaGuardia, were still reporting delays Wednesday morning, but they were mostly weather-related.

Related Topics: Fees, delays and other passenger woes

The computer glitch is only one of many inconveniences fliers have had to tolerate as the airline industry struggles with a poor economy and soaring fuel prices. Major airlines have introduced fees for extra checked baggage, refreshments and even pillows and blankets in an attempt to bring in some extra money.

The question is, will passengers continue to put up with the hassle?

This summer, amid rising fees, massive staff cuts and plans to do away with passenger comforts, such as US Airways’ decision to remove in-flight entertainment systems from planes, some analysts began to question how far airlines could go before losing business. While some experts argued that airlines had little choice but to cut nonessential services, others were more optimistic, including Virgin Airlines CEO Richard Branson.

“Virgin [Airlines] can succeed where discount and traditional carriers have failed, by offering something different,” he said to Time magazine. “A hybrid that delivers good service at a reasonable price and eliminates the hub-and-spoke approach that creates mayhem whenever the weather sours.”

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