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Outage disrupts flights

By Rob Shikina and Leila Fujimori

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 02:35 a.m. HST, Jun 18, 2011


Two United Airlines flights were delayed for several hours in Honolulu on Friday evening after a problem with the airline's reservation system caused delays around the country.

United tweeted on its Twitter page Friday afternoon that it was experiencing computer outages that were interrupting departures, airport processing and reservations. The airline's website also appeared to be down.

The reported the computer problems apparently began shortly after 2 p.m. Hawaii time, resulting in long lines of passengers at check-in counters at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.

In Honolulu the computer problem affected two flights. Flight 249 heading to Chicago was scheduled to leave at 3:57 p.m., but passengers couldn't begin checking in until shortly after 7 p.m. Dan Meisenzahl, state transportation spokesman, said a later flight to San Francisco was to be delayed because an incoming flight was delayed.

Five other United flights were scheduled to leave from Honolulu after 8 p.m. Friday. Nine scheduled flights were leaving on time from the neighbor islands late Friday night, Meisenzahl said.

After the system began creeping back to life at 6:52 p.m., several passengers could be heard clapping and cheering in the United Airlines check-in lobby at Honolulu Airport. Ticket agents began checking in passengers, but the self-check-in kiosks remained out of order.

Larry Kolonel, 69, who was heading to Montreal via Chicago, said after the system crashed, airline employees tried to check in customers with handwritten boarding passes. But airport security wouldn't take the tickets, and passengers had to return to the check-in counter. He said the computer system came back up briefly about 5 p.m. but shut down again.

Tairita Waite of Mililani arrived at the airport at about 2 p.m. and the system crashed soon after. She waited about five hours in the check-in lobby with her two daughters, Mariella, 10, and Gracia, 8, playing cards on the floor. She was anxious to get her girls on the plane.

"I think the goodness (of the children) is running out," she said, adding she expected the delay would cause them to miss their "prepaid lobster excursion" in Maine.

"A backup system needs to be in place," she said.

Three inbound flights to Honolulu were able to leave their departure cities, but one flight from San Francisco apparently was delayed about five hours because of the glitch.

Kitty Lagareta, chief executive officer of Communications Pacific, said by phone from the San Francisco flight that the plane was boarded by 3:50 p.m. California time but idled on the tarmac for about one hour. Eventually the crew said the plane had idled so long it had to return to the gate to refuel, and passengers were allowed to get off about 90 minutes later.

She said the plane's crew did a manual count of passengers and planned to take off shortly after 9 p.m. California time without the computer system running.






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