. My flight experience with the American Airlines computer glitch - Budget Travel Adventures : Budget Travel Adventures

My flight experience with the American Airlines computer glitch

buses unload passengers DFW American Airlines computer glitch system failure

buses unload passengers at DFW

I’ve flown for the last 20 years but never before had I experienced an airlines computer glitch like the one that happened Tuesday.

For many people in the travel industry, the American Airlines computer glitch made headlines.  For me, it made for a chaotic travel experience I won’t forget.

As I boarded my flight from Sacramento to Dallas at 8 am this morning, I had no idea what I was about to happen after the plane touched down in Dallas.

American Airlines computer glitch strands thousands

The flight to Dallas was relatively smooth.

After landing in Dallas, we taxied to the terminal only to stop behind a line of planes.  The captain informed us that the American Airlines computer system, which controlled routing planes on the ground and reservations, was down.

Earliest estimate that we would arrive at a gate?  1 hour.  Many passengers groaned but there wasn’t much we could do.  I used the time to read a book as the captain updated us every 15 minutes.

With every update, there wasn’t a lot of new information.  We were told that the airlines computer glitch was affecting flights all over the country.

After an hour and a half, the flight attendants served us granola bars and water.  I checked the American Airlines Twitter feed to get the latest update.


I showed the update to one of our flight attendants, Peggy.  She stated that the system that dealt with departures was different than the ones with arrivals and reservations.  She told me I already knew more than she did.  The captain assured us that all flights, both arrivals and departures, were affected.

Full gates and failed computer systems meant planes weren’t going anywhere.

With the possibility of being on the runway for hours, I flashed back to my 27 hour flight from Dublin a few months ago.

After 2 hours, buses finally arrived as we gathered our stuff and exited the plane.  We were crammed into the buses like sardines as police cars, fire trucks, airport and bus staff, and American Airlines representatives helped with the boarding process.

The police escorted us to Terminal C at Dallas Forth Worth airport.  We were finally off the plane but the chaos was just beginning.

police escort DFW terminal American Airlines computer glitch system failrure

police escort to the terminal at DFW

American Airlines computer glitch system failure grounds airplanes DFW

American Airlines planes grounded at DFW

buses DFW terminal American Airlines computer glitch system failure

buses arrive at the American Airlines terminal at DFW

American Airlines computer glitch system failure buses passengers DFW

Passengers get off the bus at DFW where the real chaos begins

American Airlines – chaos, canceled flights, and delays

Once in the airport, we huddled in confusion.  AA representatives were there to greet us.  As I looked at the board, my flight didn’t even appear as a departure.  I wasn’t alone.  Representatives told us to check with the gate agents for more information.

The American Airlines computer glitch began around 11 am CST.  At 3 pm CST, the airport was chaos.  Masses of people lined up at the American Airline counters looking for information.

As I arrived at the counter, I was told my 2:10 pm flight to Pittsburgh was at C14.  As I walked to the gate, I heard others talking about canceled flights, morning flights that were still delayed, and passengers being re-routed as they called family and friends to pick them up in different cities.

As I arrived to the gate at 3:15, there it was on the board – American Airlines Pittsburgh flight departure time 8:25 PM.

Every few minutes, gate changes, flight statuses, and information announcements were being made all over the airport.

“Flight XXXX to Tucson is now at gate CXX.  Plane is there but the airline crew hasn’t arrived.”

That’s just a sample of the announcements.  Numerous flights to cities were canceled.  Flights had planes and pilots but no flight attendants.  Flights had crews but no planes.  Gates for a flight would change.  Lines to rebook flights were long.

long lines DFW passengers rebook American Airlines computer glitch system

Passengers wait in long lines at American Airlines counters

For nearly three hours, the Pittsburgh flight had the following updates – plane and pilots here but no crew, flight ready to go at 5 but flight attendants won’t arrive until 5:11, flight now scheduled to leave at 6 pm, gate has now been changed from C14 to C21, flight crew from Austin set to arrive at 5:45 pm with flight to Pittsburgh at 6:30.  At 5:30, our crew hadn’t even left Austin yet.

At 7:15 pm CST, we were finally air born.

Most American Air flights go through Dallas while hubs in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago also experienced mass delays and chaos.

Thousands and thousands of passengers felt the impact today.  American Airlines even received permission from the FAA to ground flights due to the system issues.

My story is one of many affected by the American Airlines computer system failure.

How many times has this happened in the history of airlines?  I don’t know.  However, I’ve never experienced anything like this.

My thoughts on the American Airlines computer glitch

passengers bus DFW American Airlines computer glitch system

packed line sardines on the bus to the terminal

Like most passengers, I was frustrated but took things in stride.  I spent hours in the DFW airport and had no idea what was going on.  As travelers, we have the airlines passenger bill of rights.  Not sure how that covers a situation like this.

I don’t really know what the the problem was.  CNN reported that the reservation system operated by Sabre had no issues.  However, American Airlines just couldn’t connect to it.  The good news is that none of this seemed to be connected to the Boston bombings.

As someone who has worked in IT for years and experienced computer system glitches and downtimes, I’m not upset at American Airlines.  I think they handled this as best they could.  Many passengers were frustrated and understandably so.

On my flight, the captain and crew of American Airlines flight 2286 were fantastic.  They were helpful, happy to answer questions, served us drinks and a snack, and the captain updated us with information as quickly as he could.

At the desks, airline representatives were stressed but patiently tried to help every passenger.  With massive flight delays and cancellations all over the country, many passengers weren’t happy.  However, I didn’t have a problem with the way American Airlines handled this.

Have systems ever gone down for this many flights, for this long, across the country?  Seems travel and technology don’t always work together perfectly.

As we boarded the plane, I’ve never been so happy to get on a flight.  I’ve never seen an airlines computer glitch or system failure like this.  I hope I never see it again.

Do you have an air travel horror story?  Have you ever experienced airlines computer glitch or system failure?  Have you seen a situation where this many flights were grounded due to a technology failure?

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  1. I’ve had a 48 hour flight delay with Delta because of weather at my destination. I was supposed to fly from Cairo to NYC overnight. They kept on delaying the flight by 30 minutes, then another 30 minutes, and then some more. I finally fell asleep in the waiting area, and woke up in the morning just in time to board the flight. Then we flew right past NYC and landed in Ohio. Delta put us up in hotels the second night. I got home, but I was two days late to work after my vacation.

    • Yeah, that’s a mess. That’s horrible! I felt bad about my 27 hour flight from Dublin. I had to be at work the next day as well after arriving home at 3 am. However, two days later?! Wow, that’s horrible! Thank goodness you woke up for that flight. Who knows how much longer you would have had to wait! That’s horrible that they kept delaying it. How long did you end up waiting? If it was so long that you fell asleep, they should have put you up for the night.

  2. It once took me 36 hours to get home from Vancouver. My flight was delayed and then delayed and then delayed some more–for seemingly no reason (it appeared that they were trying to consolidate a number of undersold flights into one flight). I finally arrived in Toronto (I was transferring to Philadelphia) around 3 in the morning–14 hours after my initial flight was supposed to take off. The Toronto airport was CLOSED. Hundreds of us milled about until finally a very grumpy airline rep was brought in to deal with all of us. I was told I could get a new flight back to Philly…in three days. I was given a taxi to a hotel. I considered renting a one way car. Eventually–the next morning–they put me on a flight to a different airport–closer to where I live but farther from where my car was–at the Philly airport.

    It then also took me an additional three days to receive my luggage. I have no love for Air Canada.

    I have a similar story on trying to get home from Martha’s Vineyard. But this comment is already too long.

    And still I travel. Because I love it.

    • Ironically, my longest flight experience ever also involved Toronto. I was also flying Air Canada. Most of the other people on our flight connecting from Dublin were flying United. In Toronto, there wasn’t anyone at the Air Canada desk. So we had to wait a long time to book our flight. It took me 27 hours to get home from Dublin. However, yours was much worse.

      Air travel can be a pain, especially with delays. Sorry you’ve had such bad experiences. Unfortunately, you’re not alone. Like you, I would have been tempted to drive at that point.

  3. One time I booked a flight from Chicago to New York for a 4 p.m. departure. It kept getting delayed hourly and the weather was beautiful. I never figured out why it was delayed for so long. After a period of time I and a few other passengers were so drunk at the bar we did not care anymore. Maybe it was a glitch.

    • Only thing I wonder about is how was the weather in New York. I’ve had this happen before as well. I had that situation one day in Columbia flying to Atlanta. Weather was fine there but Atlanta had gotten so backed up that my flight was canceled because there were issues there. Sometimes it’s not the weather where you are but somewhere else that impacts your flight.

      I have never seen a glitch like this. I hope we never see something like this again.

  4. Andrew says:

    Crazy story. I am glad you weren’t upset about them about the systems glitch. I can well imagine there were a group of very harried programmers in a dark hole somewhere furiously trying to figure out why it went down perhaps with a manager yelling at them on the phone.
    This is part of the price we pay as a society for letting computer become so much a part of how things get done. I say this also as a programmer.

    The worst I can remember in recent memory was a Turkish Airline flight that sent us an email a few weeks ahead of flight time that they had shifted the flight a few hours, landing us in Istanbul at 11pm instead of a more comfortable 7pm. Meaning we were wandering around after 1am looking for our hotel.

    Glad you got there safely.

    • On two of my recent trips, I’ve had crazy stories about traveling. The first was that 27 hour flight home from Dublin. And then there was this one. Normally, I would get very upset about my schedule being messed up. I tend to get frustrated, especially when it comes to airlines. However, I took both of these in stride. The worst part of the trip was probably sitting on the plane for 2 hours just waiting. However, I read a book and was fine.

      As for the glitch, I understand it. Working in IT with systems, I understand this stuff happens. I had never seen such a system go down for the airlines affecting this many flights. However, this is now a part of the world we live in. Because of my job, I do understand so I didn’t get too upset. There were plenty of pissed off passengers, and understandably so. However, I took it in stride and just dealt with it. As soon as these events started unfolding, I knew I would have a great story to tell :)

      As for your situation, I’ve had changes to my flight as well. However, nothing more than just a few minutes. I didn’t get to Pittsburgh until 10:45. I was supposed to arrive at 5:45. However, they had a really bad storm before I arrived so it wasn’t so bad getting there late. I wouldn’t have been able to do anything anyways.

  5. Freya says:

    I had to make a technical stop once in Budapest when I was on a Jet Airways flight from Brussels to Mumbai, they told us straight away that it would take quite a while to fix it. So they brought us all to a hotel, gave us food and a free city tour. As I had never been to Budapest, I loved this.
    Another time however (I cannot remember the airline) I had 14 hours delay and they kept delaying by 30 or 60 minutes, I absolutely hate that because I’m sure they knew up-front it would take that long and they only did that to avoid having to pay a hotel for their passengers.

    • Budapest is one of my favorite cities. Very underrated and a beautiful city. I can only hope I get a layover there one day due to mechanical issues :)

      As for your delays, I know what you mean. 14 hours is a bit much. However, I had this last year in Denver. Every 60 minutes there was a delay. I was supposed to fly out at noon. Delay after delay after delay pushed it back until 6 pm. While that’s not so bad, the flight lasted 20 minutes – to Colorado Springs. If I had known the delays were going to be this long, I have have rented a car. The drive was a little over an hour.

      As for your experience, that is horrible. At some point, they need to have a cut off and put passengers up for the night and give them the option of another flight. 14 hours is ridiculous!

  6. Darron Barksdale says:

    2011 I arrived at the Des Moines,IA airport 5 hours early. To find our plane had a mechanical problem. We were told a defrosting part was coming in with a crew from Minneapolis and we would leave by 10 pm so I wait another 4 hours and at 10 they say no go. Guess we were the only flight to Atlanta. Well put you in a hotel with vouchers for room and hotel. Get up at 5am next day. Get to Atlanta on time somehow flight to Greenville,SC leaves while I’m sitting there …no second call. I get back hours late and late to work! Ugggh worst ever but had a good time before I left!

    • Darron, I almost had that happen to me. A few years ago, I was sitting at the gate in Houston. It was right before Christmas and the airport was crowded. I am sitting there looking at the gate and no announcement is ever made for my section. I walk up to the ticket counter and ask about boarding. Lady says gate is closed and plane is ready. I told her that she never made an announcement. She said she did. She was a liar. Complained to Continental to her manager. Ended up getting $800 in vouchers for a flight. They apologized and put us on the next flight.

  7. I have one of the craziest ones that I have ever heard. I am not going to give the whole story (I am saving it) but it was unbelievable.

    It was when America West and USAir were merging computer systems and could not seem to get anything correct. I had a e-ticket but the computer showed me having paper ticket. Nobody could figure out how to get me on the plane and there was a snowstorm on the east coast that was screwing up the whole system. The short story was that it involved me leaving 2 day late and having to battle to get on every plane during that trip. They kept telling it was fixed but it was not.

    I had a 6 month battle with them but finally got compensated from the.

    I am expecting another mess when USAIR and American merge.

    • How does that even happen these days? How long ago was this? That is a huge screw up. I am not sure why an eticket versus paper ticket really matters. I want to hear the rest of this story whenever you tell the whole thing.

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