NOT JUST FLIGHTS: United Airlines Technical Glitch Halts NYSE Trading

NYStockEReports say the glitch wasn’t a result of a cyberattack.

On Wednesday morning, United Airlines suffered a significant computer problem that caused some 3,500 flights to be delayed for up to two hours. A “technical glitch” forced the New York Stock Exchange to halt all trading merely hours later, with little detailed explanation.

“The problem caused the FAA to impose what is known as a ground stop at 8:26 a.m. ET, meaning United flights were not allowed to take off,” CNN reported. “It lifted the stop for feeder airlines that fly under the name United Express about 15 minutes later, but it took until just before 9:47 a.m. for the ground stop to be lifted for United flights.”

The CNN report adds that United agents were forced to hand-write tickets for passengers at several airports.

The problem highlights how powerful and delicate these airline computer systems are, which is something to keep in mind as we consider the problem of hacker mischief and cyber-warfare, although there doesn’t seem to be any indication of deliberate sabotage in this case.

“Automation software is complex, sometimes involving millions of lines of computer code. But all it takes is a single error – even misplaced text – to grind it to a halt,” CNN theorizes, although few details have yet been released about exactly what caused the problem.  The FAA described it as an “automation issue,” while United’s statement on the matter says they experienced a “network connectivity issue.”

8 A.M. Eastern time was an especially bad time frame to have such a flight-grounding glitch. United also had a flight-grounding glitch just last month, when an “automation issue” delayed takeoffs for less than an hour. Noting several other glitch outbreaks over the past few years, Bloomberg Business suggested the airline might be struggling with ongoing integration problems of some sort after its 2010 merger with Continental.

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