All U.S. flights on United Airlines were grounded for about two hours early on July 8 due to what the airline calls a “network connectivity issue” that kept airplanes out of the skies.
The outage was reported by the airline to the Federal Aviation Administration about 8 a.m. EDT, which led to a ground stop that grounded the airline’s mainline jets, according to a July 8 story by The Wall Street Journal. The stoppage did not affect the smaller aircraft that are operated by regional affiliates, the story reported.
By about 10 a.m. EDT, the airline reported to the FAA that its flights were again being restored.
In a statement to eWEEK in response to an emailed inquiry about the glitch, United said that “We are recovering from a network connectivity issue this morning and restoring regular flight operations. We will have a waiver available at united.com for customers who are able to change their flight plans.”
The airline did not comment further on the exact cause of the network issue or any other details about the incident.
“Two United pilots said the ground stop was prompted because United’s computer system couldn’t provide verified passenger lists that are required before FAA could authorize takeoffs,” the report continued. “Also, at least at some airports passengers were unable to use check-in kiosks or apps prior to scheduled departure times.”
United, which was formed from the 2010 merger of United Airlines and Continental Airlines, has experienced earlier merger-related computer system problems, including as recently as June 2 when flights were halted for about 30 minutes due to automation issues, according to a July 8 report by The Chicago Tribune.
About 120 flights at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport reported delays earlier today due to the system problems, the paper reported.
Technology glitches and problems have occurred with other airlines as well recently. In late April, a duplicate airport runway chart in a key flight app that American Airlines pilots use on their iPad digital flight bags caused iPad malfunctions that led to delays in some American Airlines flights, according to a recent eWEEK story.
The errant extra map was in the Jeppesen digital flight bag app used by American’s pilots on iPads since 2013. A duplicate chart for Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., was accidentally included in the app, which then could not reconcile the presence of the duplicate chart, causing the app to become unresponsive for pilots who had ‘favorited’ National Airport.
The glitch in that case caused delays until technicians realized what the problem was and came up with a workaround. The problem arose for flights that were on the ground and trying to move around within the airport. It did not affect any flights that were in the air. The app issue caused problems for about 24 American Airlines pilots on April 28 starting at about 8 p.m. EDT, and for another 50 pilots on the morning of April 29.
American Airlines began using iPads and the digital flight bag app from Jeppesen back in 2013 as a way to help pilots shed some 35 pounds of thick, paper-based manuals, flight maps, airport maps and more. Pilots for decades had to carry the old-style heavy flight bags, which often had to be manually updated with new pages. That was a burden for pilots and sometimes meant that the latest pages had not been inserted into the manuals.
American was the first major commercial airline to use iPads in its planes during all phases of flight, according to Jeppesen. The airline received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to use the digital flight bags on its Boeing 777, 767, 757, 737 and MD-80 jets.
Other airlines have also implemented their own digital flight bag deployments, including United Airlines, Alaska Airlines and UPS.