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article imageBug in software used by 130 airlines creates check-in chaos

By James Walker     Sep 29, 2017 in Technology
A "network issue" caused worldwide flight delays on Thursday as a passenger management system used by dozens of airlines went offline. A technical problem with the software forced crowded airports to issue manual boarding passes, creating long queues.
The outage was unusual because of the scale of the problem. Usually, a technical incident is limited to a single airline or airport. Yesterday, passengers in London, Australia, Singapore and France, among many others, were forced to wait after a software package used by over 130 different airlines experienced a brief spell of technical problems.
The program that caused the delays was a passenger management system created by IT services provider Amadeus. It's used to manage booking and check-in systems, allowing airlines to check who's meant to be on each flight. In a statement, Amadeus said it had experienced a "network issue" that caused "disruption" amongst all its customers.
Amadeus had resolved the problem within four hours of its platform going offline. The impact on airports ranged from "brief" troubles with a handful of flights to extensive delays at busier sites. Passengers reported being unable to check-in to scheduled flights as staff could not access booking information.
Most airports seem to have experienced direct technical issues for less than half an hour. Two UK operators told Bloomberg the outage lasted only fifteen minutes before the computers came back online. However, the knock-on impact of the disruption caused some sites to suffer delays throughout the day.
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The incident provides another reminder of the risks of using centralised IT platforms. Unknown to most airline users, the technology underpinning modern flight is increasingly cloud-based and sold as a service.
Although this can help keep software up-to-date, a problem at the provider could cause every client airline to experience a period of downtime. Amadeus said it acted "immediately" to restore its service but did not indicate the cause of the outage.
"Amadeus technical teams took immediate action to identify the cause of the issue and mitigate against the impact on customers," the BBC reports Amadeus said in a statement. "Amadeus regrets any inconvenience caused to customers."
The outage comes less than four months after UK airline British Airways had to cancel 75,000 flights due to cascading technical troubles. That incident was caused by human error when a worker shut down an uninterruptible power supply. It cut the power to a critical data centre, triggering automated shutdown procedures that knocked the airline's entire network offline.
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