Saturday, January 20, 2018
Business

Airports worldwide hit by delays after software outage

LONDON — Flights were delayed and travelers struggled to check in at airports around the world on Thursday after a software program used by several major airlines went down.

The program, known as Altea and developed by a company called Amadeus, encountered problems as a result of what Amadeus called a "network issue." Altea helps airlines manage customer reservations, including tagging luggage and issuing boarding passes.

Amadeus software is used by 189 airlines — including major carriers like British Airways, Lufthansa, Thai Airways and Air France — and Altea in particular is designed with full-service airlines in mind.

Problems were reported at airports in Asia, Europe and the Americas, demonstrating the breadth of the software's use as well as the integrated nature of modern air travel.

Amadeus said in a statement that it had "experienced a network issue that caused disruption to some of our systems." Technical teams had identified the cause of the outage and restored services, the company said, adding that services were gradually being restored.

By the afternoon in Europe, the company said it had resolved the issue and that its software was "functioning normally."

The extent of the outages varied by airline and airport. The Star Alliance, which includes United, Singapore Airlines, Air Canada and Lufthansa among its 28 members, said that two-thirds of its airlines use Amadeus software, and that customers on their network were affected but issues were "kept to a minimum."

Lufthansa said its problems lasted a matter of minutes, resulting in some flight delays but no cancellations. Air France said that it had experienced problems for 15 minutes and that its systems were slowly coming back online. Swiss International Air Lines said some of its flights were delayed.

A spokesman for Heathrow Airport, which is Europe's busiest and serves London, said that a "small number of airlines" were experiencing "intermittent issues" but that passengers could still check in for their flights. At the airport in Melbourne, Australia, all international flights were affected, a spokeswoman said.

Alex Macheras, an air travel analyst based in London, said the issue appeared to be affecting software known as a departure control system.

Failures of such systems, which are crucial to the operation of both an airline and an airport, have hit carriers in the past. American Airlines was forced to cancel hundreds of flights in 2013 after suffering a glitch to its software, operated by Sabre, a rival to Amadeus.

"There's been failures before, small glitches," Macheras said. "But to have it on a global scale is very unusual." He added that there did not appear to be any signs that the outage was caused by malicious intent.

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