NEW YORK (AP) — A computer outage at United Airlines delayed thousands of travelers on 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 a total of 636 of the 5,679 United flights scheduled for Thursday, the airline said. That included 257 planes delayed directly by the outage, with the rest caused by planes that were late to arrive for subsequent flights, 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 Radio Shack 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.
In a subsequent phone call with The Associated Press, Franck added: "Why is there a total system failure on a beautiful day? What happened to the backup and the backup to backup?"
United said the technology problem occurred around 8:30 a.m. EST 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. That's because once a plane departs late, it can be hard to make up for lost time.
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.
The stock price of United Continental Holdings Inc. fell 47 cents, or 2.4 percent, to $19.51 on a day when shares of other big airlines rose.
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. That system, called "Shares," has needed extensive reworking since March to make it easier for workers to use.
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.