United Airlines Experiences System-Wide Outage, Leaves Travelers Stranded

ANOTHER UPDATE: After several hours, the airline says things are getting back to normal.

Tweets the airline: “united.com & airports are back online. We’re in the process of resuming operations and rebooking customers.”

This came minutes after United made its first official announcement about how it intends to handle customers stuck having to re-book flights.

“We’ve issued a waiver policy allowing affected customers to cancel or rebook without penalty,” Explained United via Twitter.

A rep for the airline issued the following statement via e-mail to Consumerist:

United Airlines is in the process of resuming normal operations following a temporary network outage that affected its airports and website Tuesday afternoon. The outage began shortly after 2 p.m. CT today and caused delays and cancellations.

The airline is issuing a waiver policy permitting customers on affected flights to cancel or rebook their itineraries without penalty. United apologizes for the disruption caused to travelers at affected airports and is reaccommodating customers as quickly as possible. Customers may check their flight status at united.com.

What remains to be seen is whether this will suffice to appease the thousands of travelers whose plans have been changed because of the computer goof.

And checking in one more time with our own Flightless In Newark reader:

Passenger emotions ran from resigned to enraged at customer service, but the staff was holding up well. I was offered either a 7 pm sprint to the gate or a morning flight – no re-booking fee. Selected the morning flight, preferring another night with friends in New York to getting in late to LA. Things seem to be running at full speed around the airport now.


UPDATE: Our stranded reader in Newark writes at 6:20 p.m. ET:

As of 20 minutes ago the self-service kiosks were down, but one brave United employee at Newark was reprinting boarding passes for domestic passengers with carry-on luggage only. Which was great, except that by the time I got to my gate, the flight was closed.

I wasn’t the only one to miss it, as several of us got different stories on which gate we were departing from, only to be redirected. I’m now online at customer service to be rebooked. This isn’t the first time I’ve had trouble with an online boarding pass. Lesson learned: print it. If I had, I would have made my flight.

Meanwhile, the United Twitter account is saying that United.com “is up, but not fully functional.”

We’re receiving reports from readers that the nation’s largest airline is experiencing a system-wide computer shutdown that has left travelers stranded at airports.

Writes one Consumerist reader:

I’m stuck here at Newark, and flights aren’t going anywhere from here (for certain) or from several other hubs (line scuttlebutt). The first indication was when my cell phone boarding pass was no longer available. Then the web site went down. Thousands of passengers are now lined up to check in, the self-service kiosks are down, and the occasional announcements only reference “technical difficulties” before asking passengers to “bear with us while our service is restored.” Then they thank us for our patience and understanding. (They’re welcome.)

The traveler says he’s been told that flight changes will be free, with no penalties.

He says travelers are being told, “Nothing else we can do until our systems come up. If you don’t have to fly today, re-book.” And that it’s estimated the fix will take hours to get things back up.

United has only offered the one following Tweet on the topic:


Edit Your Comment

  1. HogwartsProfessor says:

    At least they’re waiving the change fee. As they should, since it’s not the passengers’ faults. I know it sucks but computer glitches do sometimes happen.


  2. cactus jack says:

    That reminds me… whatever happened to the Jim Stanek whose service dog was allegedly kicked story? Did anything ever happen with that? Did a quick Google search and I’m not coming up with anything.

  3. Stilor says:

    This should really be a single article with the one preceding it. Something like that:

    “Alaska Airlines is all about this new kind of humanless system, wherein “your first interaction could be with a flight attendant,” explains the airline’s chief operating officer when talking to the Wall Street Journal. Alaska Airlines uses self-tagging of baggage in Seattle and San Diego already and is planning on expanding to eight more airports soon.

    American Airlines is also heading in an automated direction, with baggage kiosks in many cities, while JetBlue is the first U.S. airline to officially start using self-boarding gates. Of course, there are always snags where a machine won’t accept a boarding pass or print the right bag tag, which is when airline employees would step in.

    Meanwhile, United Airlines experiences system-wide outage, leaves travelers stranded.”

  4. 808 says:

    Well, this explains why I’ve been unable to log on today to make some bookings.

    Here is the error message in case the website crashes later; it’s not a familiar one to me:
    “We’re sorry, but united.com was unable to complete your request due to a technical problem.
    Please try later or call 1-800-396-1751 for assistance.”

  5. CalicoGal says:

    It looks like that post has been deleted from their Twitter feed…

  6. dush says:

    They put people on planes and flew them long before these airline computer systems.
    Just get the people where they are going.

    • Santas Little Helper says:

      Unfortunately it just does not work that way anymore.

    • rgf207 says:

      It’s not that simple anymore. It used to be done that way but the regulations have changed. With the computers being down, United cannot check in passengers or verify that they are ticketed. Airlines don’t print paper tickets anymore, they are all stored on the computer systems. Without these tickets they can’t have an accurate passenger count or roster which is against FAA regulations.

    • perruptor says:

      More lost knowledge of the ancients …

    • humphrmi says:

      I used to carry firecrackers and a long sharp tipped CB Radio antennae in my carry on. What’s your point?

    • humphrmi says:

      Oh and you forgot “And get off my lawn!”

  7. SoCalGNX says:

    I wonder if any preachers will say this is God’s punishment for loosing guitars and being nasty to gay people?

  8. Walker66 says:

    Hand written boarding passes. Security is job one. This is still the 21st century right?

  9. AngryK9 says:

    I wonder how many Taylor Guitars were broken in this fiasco.

  10. MarkFL says:

    “the airline says things are getting back to normal.”

    Insert your own punchline here.