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Computer glitch stops United flights at ORD



http://www.chicagobreakingnews.com/2009/07/computer-glitch-causes-long-lines-at-ohare.html

Computer glitch stops United flights at O'Hare
July 2, 2009 9:02 AM

A United Airlines computer outage this morning at O'Hare International
Airport is keeping passengers from checking in and is grounding the
airline's flights at the airport.

"While we immediately work to fix it, flights are delayed and some may
be canceled," the airline said in a statement. "We apologize to our
customers for this inconvenience and recommend they allow for extra
time at the airport and use united.com to check flight status and
check-in."

Travelers wait at Terminal 1 as a computer glitch grounds United
flights at O'Hare International Airport this morning. (Michael Tercha
/ Chicago Tribune)

FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory said that United had done a
ground stop of its planes on its own, and while that officially that
had ended at 7:55 a.m., there was no indication when flights would be
leaving the airport again. The problem began about 5:15 a.m., she
said.

United had told the FAA that it was a computer issue that made the
airline unable to check in people for flights and resulted in an
inability to get final flight information to the cockpit, Cory said.

"I only remember in my 10 years one other time" that computer glitches
have caused this much trouble with flights, Cory said.

At 8 a.m., a line of hundreds of passengers stretched from inside
United's terminal to the sidewalk outside. An airline spokeswoman said
that it was manually checking in travelers through mobile units and
laptop computers to facilitate check-in for as many customers as
possible. Customer service at Washington Dulles is also assisting
through remote check-in.

Travelers were being advised to check in online so they can avoid
lines at O'Hare. The computer problem is local and affecting traffic
only at O'Hare, but because the airport is United's largest hub,
delays there ripple throughout its network. United had a system-wide
computer outage in June 2007 that grounded its flights around the
world.

Because of the crowds on the upper departure level of the United
terminal, officials have diverted all ground transportation vehicles
-- such as vans and taxis -- to the lower level of the terminal
usually reserved for arrivals, police said.

As of about 8 a.m. Hector Villagrana, 40, was waiting to go through
the security checkpoint and said airline employees were walking the
terminal making announcements with bullhorns, saying delays would last
at least another 90 minutes.

When he got to the airport about 45 minutes before, he saw about 500
people waiting to get to the ticket desks. Since then, however, the
lines seemed to had shortened as many of those passengers passed
through security.

In lieu of boarding passes, passengers were manually checked-in if
they had their ticket numbers and filled out a form. Consequently,
Villagrana said, dozens of passengers could be seen consulting
flight-information emails on their Blackberries and iPhones.

Villagrana said the mood in the terminal was generally calm.

"No one's fuming or anything," he said. "Ever since 911 you seem to
take these kinds of things in stride. ... It's because the employees
are being so communicative. People get upset not being informed of
what's going on.

Villagrana, 40, was on his way to Charleston, S.C., with his
girlfriend Chrissie Richards to meet her family.

"It's not the greatest way to meet them for the first time," he said, chuckling.

Steve Rosenbloom, a reporter for the Tribune on his way to Las Vegas,
said lines outside of the United terminal were "massive."  Two
helicopters hovered above the Hilton hotel located near the property,
he said.

"The lines were from one door past another," he said. The lines "were
pretty much bumping into each other."

Rosenbloom was traveling on American, he said, where there were no lines at all.

Lois Norder was waiting on a Dallas-bound flight this morning along
with dozens of other passengers. The pilot, she said, announced that
the plane could not take off because the computer problems were
preventing crews from refueling it.

Airline employees told people in the terminal at about 6:30 a.m. about
the computer glitch, said Norder, who was traveling with her husband.
People who already had been issued boarding passes before the system
went down were allowed to board, but those who had not were told they
would have to wait, she said.

"The employees are really stumped," said Norder, who was returning
home to Ft. Worth today. "They're trying to figure out what to do."

As she spoke, a voice came over the plane's public-address system.

Fixing the computer system, "can be a long and arduous process," the voice said.

-- Staff report

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