Two high-profile airline technology meltdowns stranding thousands of travelers in the recent weeks have prompted two US senators to push carriers to bolster their technology.
Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.)this week sent a letter to the most recent offenders -- Delta and Southwest -- as well as 11 other airlines to get a better handle on whether or not their information technology systems are reliable and resilient.
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In addition Reuters reported last week further outages are likely because major carriers have not invested enough to overhaul reservations systems based on technology dating to the 1960s, citing airline industry and technology experts. “Airlines have spent heavily to introduce new features such as automated check-in kiosks, real-time luggage tracking and slick mobile apps. But they have avoided the steep cost of rebuilding their reservations systems from the ground up,” former airline executives told Reuters.
“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,” wrote Blumenthal and Markey wrote in the letter to airline CEOs. “Now that four air carriers control approximately 85% 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.”
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In the letter, the senators ask:
- 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?
The senators sent letters to: 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.