Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Delta Air Lines Efforts to Restore Normal Service Stumble

Delta Air Lines Inc.’s efforts to restore normal service Wednesday stumbled as cancellations that snarled the carrier for two days left flight crews out of position, adding to travel disruption.

The Atlanta-based airline said 255 flights were canceled Wednesday after an earlier projection only about 90 services would need to be scratched. Normal operations after the disruptions from Monday’s computer system failure now are expected to be restored in the afternoon, the No. 2 U.S. carrier by traffic, rather than midday.

“We’re in the final hours of bouncing back from the disruption,” the airline’s senior vice president for operations Dave Holtz said in a statement Wednesday.

The airline canceled about 800 flights Tuesday after about 1,000 were annulled the day before when a systems failure occurred in the early hours of Monday. Delta chief operating officer Gil West said on Tuesday that a “power control module” at the airline’s technology center malfunctioned “causing a surge to the transformer and a loss of power.” Backup systems didn’t kick-in as expected.

Delta said its computer systems now were functioning normally. Delays and cancellations were largely because crew members were in the wrong location or reached the end of their legally allowed duty time.

The disruption has angered passengers. Delta said it would continue its policy of allowing some passengers to rebook without a fee for another day, and said unaccompanied minors wouldn’t be permitted to begin traveling on Wednesday.

The airline said it had dispatched reservation agents to its busy Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport hub, the world’s busiest, to bolster the staff available to assist passengers.

Scattered thunderstorms in the eastern U.S. could slow recovery operations, the airline warned.

Delta is the latest U.S. carrier to be hit by major disruptions from technical problems. That has raised questions about whether a recent wave of four U.S. airline mergers, which created four large carriers controlling 85% of domestic capacity, has built companies too large and too reliant on IT systems that date from the 1990s. Delta merged with Northwest Airlines eight years ago.

Joe Leader, chief executive of the Atlanta-based Airline Passenger Experience Association said the high degree of automation in airline systems and the push by airlines to get passengers to embrace online check-in or smartphone applications has made it more difficult to recover from system outages when they occur. “We have become so reliant on the technology that people have genuinely forgotten how to go to manual mode.”

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