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United Airlines' computer problems frustrate passengers

United Airlines passengers check the flight schedules Thursday in Chicago.

Associated Press

United Airlines passengers check the flight schedules Thursday in Chicago.

NEW YORK — A computer outage at United Airlines delayed thousands of travelers Thursday and embarrassed the airline at a time when it's trying to win back customers after glitches earlier this year.

The two-hour outage held up 250 of the 5,679 United flights scheduled for Thursday, the airline said.

From Los Angeles to London, Boston to San Francisco, frustrated fliers tweeted snarky remarks about the problem. It was United's third major computer mishap this year.

"Does anyone have a RadioShack computer or abacus to help United get their system fixed?" tweeted Lewis Franck, a motorsports writer flying from Newark, N.J., to Miami to cover the last race of the NASCAR season.

United said the technology problem occurred about 8:30 a.m. and was fixed by 10:30 a.m. But morning delays can ripple throughout an airline's network for the rest of the day even after the underlying cause is fixed.

The glitch involved communication between dispatchers at the company's operations center in Chicago and planes at airports around the world, United spokesman Rahsaan Johnson said. Dispatchers communicate information such as weight and fuel loads to pilots, who need it to operate the flight. Johnson said the airline has identified the specific problem and said it won't happen again.

United has been struggling with technology problems since March, when it switched to a passenger information computer system that was previously used by Continental. United and Continental merged in 2010.

In August, 580 United flights were delayed and its website was shut down for two hours because of a problem with a piece of computer hardware.

United Airlines' computer problems frustrate passengers 11/15/12 [Last modified: Thursday, November 15, 2012 9:05pm]
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