US senators want airline IT meltdowns to end

Senators Richard Blumenthal and Edward J. Markey this week sent a letter to 13 airline CEOs looking for answers to the IT problems that devastate travel

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.

+More on Network World: Not dead yet: 7 of the oldest federal IT systems still wheezing away+

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.”

+More on Network World: 26 of the craziest and scariest things the TSA has found on travelers+

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.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

More about Alaska AirlinesAmerican AirlinesDeltaFrontier AirlinesIslandJetBlue AirwaysSouthwest AirlinesUnited Airlines

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Michael Cooney

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    IDG Live Webinar:The right collaboration strategy will help your business take flight

    Speakers - Mike Harris, Engineering Services Manager, Jetstar - Christopher Johnson, IT Director APAC, 20th Century Fox - Brent Maxwell, Director of Information Systems, THE ICONIC - IDG MC/Moderator Anthony Caruana

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place