After a power-control module at its command centre in Atlanta failed and caught fire, which was extinguished without the aid of the local fire department, the Atlanta-based airline company’s computer system went kaput at about 2:30 a.m. on Monday.
300 of the company’s 7,000 servers didn’t have backup power, something which was discovered only after the thing happened.
It was so bad that the passengers could not even be informed in advance about the problem, and ground staff had to resort to pen and paper and crowd management.
On Monday, there had been 2,100 flight cancellations, nearly 800 on Tuesday, around 317 by Wednesday afternoon, and 29 till Thursday morning. Services are expected to get back to normal by Friday.
Meanwhile, the CEO of Delta Airlines Inc. took full responsibility for Monday’s incident.
The nation’s second busiest airline had spent up big in updating its technology over the past three years and $150 million this year itself, when it got a new chief information officer as well as significant new additions to its information technology and infrastructure team.
In question now is the reliance on increasingly complicated technological systems by bodies like airlines worldwide.
Monday’s snag brings to question how effective these upgrades and spending were.
To the customers who were delayed for more than three hours or facing cancellations, Delta had offered 200 vouchers, which is the average price of one-way tickets sold on Monday and Tuesday. This was to pay for future travel, in addition to covering hotel costs for thousands of customers.
For its customers at the topmost level, the airline has used its private jets.
The question on the efficiency of the technology can be made more serious by the recent emergence of news of publication in early January, where an advertisement appeared by Chinese state hackers for information and vulnerabilities of many major services.
Delta Airlines, United Airlines and FedEx, among others were in the long list under the category ‘Air Attacks Infrastructure’.
It was published in the premium section of a darknet online black market by ‘Babylon ATP’, which is supposed to be a group run by Chinese military hackers who use the platform to resell information and access to critical networks after finishing contracts with the government.
According to Ed Alexander, the leader of the world’s largest known team of darknet cybercrime undercover investigators, airlines are very easy to target owing to their antiquated systems.
Adding to its woes, the negotiations between the pilots union of the airlines, comprising of some 13,000 pilots, and the company leaders has been stalled owing to lack of progress in bargaining, with the National Mediation Board calling for a three-week hiatus.
The pilots had asked for a 40% pay increase over three years.
Trouble seems to be hounding the airlines, with a flight from Norfolk to Detroit forced to turn around and make an emergency landing at Norfolk International Airport on Thursday morning.
Delta Flight 5319, a Bombardier CRJ-700 plane, which departed Norfolk at 10:59 a.m., was forced to make a return at 11:15 a.m. after one of its two engines stopped working. It was carrying 62 people, including crew.
Allegations have been made by several traumatized passengers that the plane took off in spite of it emitting very loud noises and smoke while leaving the tarmac itself, something which should obviously not have happened.
It may have been due to the pressure the airline is presently under following Monday’s power snag and the subsequent catastrophe.
The airlines had come under attack only last week after its decision to air only a severely censored version of the Oscar-nominated lesbian drama Carol came to light.
Apparently, it had got the edited version from Weinstein Company itself, as the original theatrical release did not meet its nudity standards. United and American Airlines, though, get to show the theatrical version itself.
Something more ridiculous, though, is confusing New Mexico for Mexico by some Delta Airlines employees.