Frequent fliers aren't the only ones fed up with airline computer outages. In the wake of delays due to recent glitches with the systems of Southwest and Delta Air Lines, two US senators are asking for answers.
"We are concerned with recent reports indicating that airlines' IT systems may be susceptible to faltering because of the way they are designed and have been maintained," Democratic Sens. Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut wrote in a letter to more than a dozen airlines.
Delta flights were grounded earlier this month after "a critical power control module at our Technology Command Center malfunctioned, causing a surge to the transformer and a loss of power," according to COO Gil West. Southwest, meanwhile, had to cancel hundreds of flights last month after its website went down.
In their letters, Markey and Blumenthal "inquire about safeguards and backups in place within airline IT systems to protect against power outages, cyberattacks and other hazards," they said in a statement. They also "ask the airlines about policies that would allow passengers to be rebooked on another airline or on a different mode of transportation in the event of irregular operations caused by the airlines, as well as about their reimbursement and compensation policies."
Airline mergers are not helping the situation, they continued. "Now that four air carriers control approximately 85 percent of domestic capacity, all it takes is one airline to experience an outage and thousands of passengers could be stranded, resulting in missed business meetings, graduations, weddings, funerals and other prepaid events."
The senators' letter includes several queries, including how many times technology has caused an outage to air traffic, what safeguards are in place when systems fail, and the current state of the airline's IT system. They have asked the airline CEOs to respond to their queries by Sept.16.
Airlines that received the letter include American Airlines, Delta Airlines, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Alaska Airlines, Spirit Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Allegiant Air, Virgin America, Sun Country Airlines and Island Air Hawaii.