HomeEconomynewsIT Glitch Grounds All Alaska Airlines Flights Nationwide 

IT Glitch Grounds All Alaska Airlines Flights Nationwide 


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Travelers across the United States faced significant delays and cancelations Wednesday morning after Alaska Airlines was forced to ground all its mainline and regional flights for roughly an hour due to an IT system failure. 

The Seattle-based carrier requested a ground stop from the Federal Aviation Administration at approximately 7:30 am Pacific Time after experiencing an issue while performing an upgrade to its weight and balance calculation system. This critical software is used to determine if aircraft are properly loaded and balanced for safe flight operations.

With the potential for inaccurate weight and balance data, Alaska Airlines made the proactive decision to pause all departures nationwide out of an abundance of caution until the issue could be resolved.

“This morning we experienced an issue while performing an upgrade to the system that calculates our weight and balance,” the airline explained in a statement. “Out of an abundance of caution, we requested a ground stop for all Alaska and Horizon flights, which was instituted at approximately 7:30 a.m. PT.”

The ground stop order immediately disrupted Alaska’s entire U.S. operation, leaving thousands of passengers stranded at airports around the country as dozens of flights faced delays or cancelations. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Alaska’s largest hub, was among the hardest hit with 99 mainline and 19 regional flights impacted in the early hours.

“As of 10:10 a.m., Seattle-Tacoma International Airport reported a total of 136 flight delays and one cancelation,” confirmed airport spokeswoman Perry Cooper. “The majority were Alaska Airlines flights, which bore the brunt of this nationwide ground stop.”

Fortunately for travelers, the IT issue was resolved relatively quickly. By 8:30 am Pacific Time, approximately one hour after the ground stop began, Alaska announced the system problems had been “mitigated” and the FAA order could be lifted. Flights were then allowed to begin departing and resuming normal operations.

However, the temporary nationwide ground stop created a ripple effect of disruptions that continued impacting operations and causing residual delays throughout the day at airports across Alaska’s route network.  

“The issue was mitigated and the ground stop for Alaska and Horizon flights expired at 8:30 a.m. PT. We have begun releasing flights,” the airline confirmed. “Residual delays are expected throughout the day. We apologize for the inconvenience and encourage guests to check the status of their flights prior to heading to the airport.”

While unfortunately disruptive for customers, industry experts praised Alaska’s decision to immediately ground flights rather than attempting to keep flying with potentially faulty weight and balance data. Properly calculating that equation is an essential part of flight planning to ensure aircraft are correctly loaded.

“Weight and balance is one of the fundamental things that has to be accurate before any flight can safely operate,” explained retired pilot and aviation analyst Chris Manno. “If there’s any uncertainty about those calculations being correct, grounding flights is exactly the right call from a safety perspective.”  

Manno noted that errors in aircraft weight and balance can have serious consequences, ranging from performance issues during takeoff and landing to potential handling problems once airborne. Exemplifying the potential dangers, photos circulated online in January showing the front cargo door of an Alaska Airlines 737 violently blowing open during a flight after a suspected improper loading issue.

“You can get into some really dangerous scenarios if the plane isn’t loaded property with the weight properly distributed,” Manno said. “So while it’s very disruptive for passengers, Alaska simply had no choice but to get things sorted out before releasing any more flights.”

For its part, Alaska Airlines appeared well-prepared to deal with the IT outage from an operational standpoint. The carrier was able to quickly isolate the issue, find a resolution, and systematically begin clearing the backlog of delayed and canceled flights in relatively short order.

While inconveniencing, the disruption could have been far worse if the ground stop had dragged on for hours or even days like some previous major airline IT failures. Passengers appeared to remain relatively calm and understanding given the circumstances.

“I’d always prefer my plane not take off with any unresolved potential safety issues, so I get why they had to pump the brakes for a bit this morning,” said Richard Evers, whose Seattle to Los Angeles flight was delayed over 90 minutes. “As frustrating as it is, I’d much rather be momentarily inconvenienced on the ground than have any problems once we’re in the air.”

Indeed, most flyers seem to appreciate the philosophy of safety first, something the Alaska incident reinforced along with the industry’s overall improving resilience when it comes to IT outages. Decades of significant technological investments by airlines and airports are paying off with better system redundancies and more robust disruption response capabilities.

“While no airline ever wants to face this type of scenario, they are exceptionally well-prepared for it compared to even just a few years ago,” said aviation IT expert Kendra Willett. “The ability to get things fully restored within an hour is honestly rather remarkable when you consider the complexity of these systems and the potential for cascading failures.”

Of course, the relatively short timeframe of the Alaska ground stop pales in comparison to the unmitigated disaster of системных сбоев Southwest Airlines suffered over the holiday season. That catastrophic system failure left millions of passengers stranded around the world for days and will now cost the low-cost carrier over $1 billion in reimbursements and lost revenue.

“The Southwest meltdown really underscored how critical it is for airlines to prioritize IT infrastructure investments, staffing, and redundancies,” Willett noted. “While no system is ever going to be 100% infallible, the ability to respond and recover quickly from these types of issues is absolutely paramount.”

For Alaska Airlines, that commitment to resilient IT systems paid major dividends on Wednesday. Their ability to swiftly resolve the weight and balance program glitch averted an operational nightmare that could have easily rivaled the Southwest holiday debacle in terms of disruption and financial impact.

Instead, aside from some understandably frustrated travelers dealing with a few hours of delays, Alaska was able to get back to mostly normal operations by early afternoon. It provided the carrier with an important system stress test they passed with relatively high marks.

“Disruptions like this are always going to be a challenge, but Alaska showed today they have the protocols and capabilities in place to manage it about as well as realistically possible,” said Manno. “Their proactive decision to ground flights likely prevented any serious safety issues from arising.”

“From a passenger’s perspective, you’d always prefer no disruptions at all,” he added. “But if and when they do happen, this is about the best-case scenario in terms of an airline’s ability to take swift action and restart operations in a meaningful way.”


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