Airline travelers from the U.S. East Coast to Bahrain are facing daylong flight delays following a massive overnight failure in the Sabre airline reservation system.
“Sabre is experiencing a system issue. Our Technology team is working as quickly as possible to resolve the situation,” read Sabre’s Twitter feed at 10:06 p.m. EST Aug. 5.
By 11:08 p.m. @SabreNews announced Sabre’s systems were coming back online, but delay and disconnection complaints continued to filter in from airports around the world.
By 12:30 a.m. Aug. 6 @SabreNews announced the systems were back online but that some customers were having trouble connecting. “This has been restored and everyone is now able [to connect],” the service tweeted.
Restoring service at the head end of Sabre’s massive network of carriers and travel agencies didn’t eliminate gaps and delays that developed along the way, however. Tightly meshed international airline schedules depend heavily on one another to prevent delays. When weather in Chicago delays flights from the East and West coasts, the delays ripple throughout the U.S. airline network and, to a lesser extent, overseas.
When the scheduling system itself goes down, all 400 airlines around the world are hit with the same delay, which ripples out to their own networks of travel agents and auxiliary carriers. A two-hour delay in bookings through Sabre could multiply into delays many times that long for its client networks. British Airways passengers in Johannesburg’s international airport were delayed, as were passengers of Virgin Australia, who were checked in manually by Australian ground crews who didn’t wait for Sabre to come back online.
Alaska Airlines told CNN that fifty of its flights failed to take off on time. Alaska passengers in Sea-Tac Airport were informed there was no way to check them in and that there might be delays getting their luggage on or off flights, according to local KIOR tv.
“They gave me a sheet of paper explaining the computer crash,” passenger Nathan Mitchell told KIRO while waiting to travel to Los Angeles. “But I can’t get answers at all. I heard the agents were getting people on the flights writing names on paper instead of the computer.”
A spokesperson for Los Angeles International Airport said 17 flights were delayed for as long as 45 minutes.
Two months ago Alaska Airlines had a computer problem of its own that delayed booking for two hours before the system could be rebooted.
At 2 a.m. Eastern time, @SabreNews offered one more update: “@breakingnews: Update 7 a.m GMT today: system restored and customers back online. We apologize for the inconvenience.”
It repeated variations of the tweet six more times by 11 a.m. Eastern time in answer to specific customers.