Day 2: Delta cancels more flights, seeks ‘reset’

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News

Romulus — Delta Air Lines counters at Detroit Metro Airport were busy but the “situation has significantly improved” Tuesday after a power surge knocked out computers at Delta’s command center early Monday morning.

Erica Donerson, spokeswoman with Detroit Metro, said Tuesday afternoon that passengers trying to fly out of Detroit still were seeing delays, but things are calm.

“Customers have been extremely patient and understanding,” Donerson said.

Delta canceled another 530 flights Tuesday after canceling 1,000 flights Monday and delaying another 2,800 following the power outage at Delta’s Atlanta headquarters tripped a meltdown of its booking, communications and other systems.

Delta Air Lines said Tuesday that “critical systems and network equipment didn’t switch over to backups” when a power surge knocked out the airline’s command center Monday, causing hundreds of canceled and delayed flights as the carrier recovered from a global computer outage. The airline was back online after a few hours Monday.

Delta was continuing to move planes and crews Tuesday to “reset” its operation, the airline said.

Donerson said Detroit Metro employees worked Monday and Tuesday to direct Delta customers to proper help and ticketing desks.

“We are still operating in recovery mode,” said Dave Holtz, the airline’s senior vice president of operations, in a statement.

Delta said it was focused on “moving departures at the airline's Atlanta hub, the world’s busiest.”

In a Tuesday afternoon statement, Gil West, Delta’s chief operating officer, said a power control module at Delta’s Technology Command Center malfunctioned and caused a power surge that knocked out a transformer. Power to the command center stabilized, but some equipment didn’t switch to backups, while others did.

“Now we’re seeing instability in these systems,” he said in the written statement.

“Delta is a vast people-moving machine that is tightly wound around a schedule that meets customer demand,” West said. “Similar to what happens after a severe weather event, it is not unusual for a global airline to take more than 24 hours to return to full reliability.”

West said the delays and cancellations skewed flight crew schedules, too. Because flight crews can work only a limited time before mandated rest periods, many crews had to be taken off duty, adding to delays.

Delta, he said, is “keeping safety top of mind is a constant in our actions, and especially while we’re running our operation in recovery mode, and making sure flight crews on duty have all they need to operate a safe flight, especially consistent delivery of information.”

Delta offered a travel-waiver policy to help stranded passengers rearrange their travel plans. The airline also offered refunds and $200 in travel vouchers to people whose flights were canceled or delayed at least three hours.

The investigation of the outage is ongoing, but Delta said there is no indication that the problems were caused by a hack or intentional breach of the system.

A spokesman for the local electric company, Georgia Power, said the problem started with a piece of Delta equipment called a switchgear, which direct flows within a power system. No other customers lost power, he said.

Airlines depend on huge, overlapping and complicated systems to operate flights, ticketing, boarding, airport kiosks, websites and mobile phone apps. Even brief outages can now snarl traffic and, as the Delta incident shows, those problems can go global in seconds.

Last month, Southwest Airlines canceled more than 2,000 flights over four days after an outage that it blamed on a faulty network router. United Airlines and American Airlines both suffered outages last year — United has struggled with several meltdowns since combining technology systems with merger partner Continental Airlines.

ithibodeau@detroitnews.com

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Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau

The Associated Press contributed

Hurt by the Delta outage? Here’s what you can do

If you’re one of the people left stranded by Delta’s outage, you have options.

The airline is waiving fees, offering refunds and giving out travel vouchers to those who were scheduled to fly on Aug. 8 or Aug. 9. Over those two days, more than 1,200 Delta flights around the world were canceled due to a power outage that crippled its booking and communications systems.

Here’s what you can do:

Get a refund: If your flight was canceled by Delta or delayed more than three hours, and you decide not to reschedule, you can ask the airline for your money back.

Reschedule your flight: Delta won’t charge its ticket change fee, which can cost as much as $500, even if your flight was not canceled. But if you book the rescheduled flight to take place after Aug. 12, you may have to pay more for airfare.

Delta Air Lines Inc. recommends rescheduling flights on its website or app since its phone lines may be busy.

Get vouchers for future travel: As a bonus, Delta is giving away $200 in travel vouchers to those whose flight was canceled or delayed more than three hours. The voucher can be used within a year on any Delta-operated flight.

The vouchers can only be used by the person who was stranded. So if you were traveling for work, the voucher is yours to keep for that next family vacation. However, some companies might require employees to apply the credit toward their next work trip, although that is usually a small percent of companies.

Apply for the voucher at delta.com/wecare

— Associated Press