Blumenthal & Markey Query Airlines about Information Technology Systems in Light of Recent Widespread Cancellations and Delays

Senators also ask airlines about policies for reimbursement or to allow passengers to rebook on competing carriers’ flights during travel disruptions

Washington (August 16, 2016) – As airline passengers suffer cancellations and delays due to unexplained airline technology issues, today, Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) queried 13 major airlines about efforts to ensure airline information technology (IT) systems are reliable and resilient. Recently, Southwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines experienced technology issues that resulted in thousands of flight cancellations across the country. Last year, a United Airlines router issue grounded all of the airline’s flights for two hours. In the letters, the Senators inquire about safeguards and backups in place within airline IT systems to protect against power outages, cyberattacks, and other hazards. The Senators 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.

“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,” write Senators Blumenthal and Markey in the letters to the airline CEOs. “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.”

Senators Blumenthal and Markey sent letters to the following airlines: 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.

A copy of the letter can be found HERE.

In the letter, the Senators ask questions that include:

  • Over the past five years, what was the cause of IT outages or disruptions that caused flight cancellations or delays longer than one hour, what safeguards were in place at the time each outage occurred, and why did these safeguards fail to prevent the disruption?
  • What specific safeguards and backups does your company have in place to prevent your airline’s IT systems from failing?
  • What is the state of your airline’s IT system and what specific steps are being taken to modernize it, if needed?
  • In the event of delays and cancellations caused by the air carrier, does your airline rebook passengers on another airline or with a different mode of transportation for no additional charge? 
  • What other compensation and recourse, including but not limited to lodging, food, and reimbursement, does your airline provide consumers in the event of delays and cancellations caused by the air carrier? 

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