A sweeping computer glitch that halted domestic departures early Wednesday left airline passengers confused, frustrated and stranded at airports across the country.
The Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) system, which pilots rely on for the latest information on airport and airspace closures and safety, had “failed,” the Federal Aviation Administration said. Just before 9 a.m., the agency said normal air traffic operations were resuming gradually across the United States.
“The ground stop has been lifted,” the FAA said, noting that the cause of the outage is being investigated.
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More than 4,000 flights were delayed and more than 700 flights were canceled in the U.S. as of 9 a.m., according to FlightAware.com.
Tashara Chanel White, a licensed practical nurse, was supposed to depart from Raleigh-Durham International Airport in North Carolina at 5:20 a.m. to head to Miami and then on to Cartagena, Colombia, but her flight’s captain said they may not depart Wednesday given the outage.
The news came about five minutes prior to boarding her American Airlines flight while passengers were at the gate, she said.
“This is insane. We were told that there was an outage that happened at 7 p.m. yesterday and they were trying to fix it then. It apparently worsened this morning,” White said.
“I am personally bothered with the fact that this was a known problem yesterday and the public wasn’t made aware sooner,” she said. “It pains me to see people with small children and the elderly especially sitting for so long and can’t get the care they need. People rely on the convenience of flying, but the hassle is not worth it these days.”
She said she saw some flights at the airport taking off, mainly by Delta Airlines and some by American Airlines, in the early morning.
Just before 7:30 a.m., the FAA had tweeted that all airlines were pausing all domestic departures until 9 a.m. ET to “validate the integrity of flight and safety information.”
In New York City, Heather Allen, 32, was watching a movie on her plane and still on the tarmac at John F. Kennedy International Airport when she and other passengers were told to get off the Delta Airlines flight.
She was flying to Seattle with her fiancé to visit her family for a delayed holiday visit and was scheduled to take off at 7:30 a.m.
She learned of the outage by reading the news on Twitter and had been on the plane for about an hour before she had to deplane.
“Trying to be patient, but feeling frustrated,” Allen said. She said the situation at the airport is “not currently chaotic, but could be if delays are longer.”
Lou Mongello, 54, said he and his family were traveling from Orlando International Airport in Florida to Los Angeles to visit Disneyland on Wednesday morning.
“We had just boarded our United flight when I noticed that they had stopped loading passengers,” he said. Mongello said the captain later came over the public address system with the dreaded announcement.
He “advised of the FAA computer glitch and that we would need to deplane,” Mongello said. After getting off the flight, he received a message from United Airlines apologizing for the delay and providing him and his family with meal vouchers.
“Everyone at the airport seems to be calm and patient. Fortunately, this happened first thing in the morning, so it is not overwhelmingly crowded,” he said. “I was walking through the terminal past each of the gate, and even people who are standing in line are being incredibly respectful and understanding.”
“The latest update they gave us is that we will hear additional information at 9:30 a.m., but all flights are currently grounded for three hours,” he said.