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Another server outage at a major airline, this time it's Delta

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August 8, 2016

On July 21, despite several explanations and ample apologies, Southwest Airlines delays and cancellations caused by a critical server outage continued for the third day in a row. This isn't the first time such an event happens and it sure won't be the last.

Today it's Delta Airlines' turn to suffer a similar server outage that has caused global delays for thousands of passengers using their planes.

The American carrier tweeted about the issues blaming the server outage for delayed and cancelled flights. Based in Atlanta, Georgia, Delta subsequently blamed the server crash on a massive power failure at 2.38 am ET that has seemingly taken down the servers running in-flight status, information on airport screens, its delta.com website, its airport systems and even its mobile apps.

Delta operates up to 54,000 flights each day, owns a major stake in Virgin Atlantic and partners with KLM, Air France and Alitalia, among other major airlines.

The company did not elaborate further on the nature of the server issue, but there were reports of staff using a back-up system to check in passengers.

The service outage is reported to have affected passengers at airports in the U.S. and Asia in addition to London’s Heathrow and Israel's Ben Gurion airports.

Twitter was rife with 140-character snapshots of human misery with Delta passengers at Heathrow waiting for at least an hour and a half to two hours in a few cases.

Before this event and the one two weeks ago at Southwest Airlines, Quantas and Virgin Australia’s systems were also affected in January 2015.

Then the Altea reservation system used by the two antipodean airlines and run by Amadeus was also taken down by a bug in some piece of software that didn’t recognise leap seconds. The system crashed as a leap second was added to the world’s clocks.

Altea, one of the largest computer travel reservation systems on the planet, was taken down for 48 minutes with check-in staff having to turn to paper versions.

We don't know for now which type of software Delta uses for its reservation system. Jonathan Price, vice president of Canadian IT infrastructure provider Sun Hosting says that to have a simple power cut take down a whole system used by a major airline is unacceptable with today's modern Tier 3 data centers, given they feature full UPSs and diesel emergency power generators at all times.

Passengers on Twitter reported problems, including the inability to check in or being stuck on the tarmac from airports around the world, including San Francisco, Rome and Athens.

"The airline provided passengers with little information," said New Yorker Carly Hayes, who was due to travel from Fiumicino Airport in Rome to New York's JFK. Jackie Watanabe, who was due to travel from Las Vegas to Minneapolis, tweeted that the airline was handing out blankets to passengers who wanted to get some sleep on the floor of the terminal there.

"I'm not ready to go into camping mode yet, but other passengers are," she said, tweeting a photo of sleeping passengers.

Source: Delta Airlines.

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