United Airlines flights resume after worldwide ground stop

Customers in United Airline’s Terminal 1 faced long lines after all flights were grounded Wednesday morning. | Tim Boyle/For the Sun-Times

All United Continental flights in the U.S. were temporarily grounded Wednesday morning due to computer problems.

The FAA said at 9 a.m. that an automation problem had been resolved and that it had given United the all-clear to begin flying again. Further delays are likely as United works to clear the backlog of delayed flights.

“It was absolute chaos,” said Jim Herbert, 50, as he stood in Terminal 1 waiting to go through security. “You could just tell something wasn’t right. This room was filled from end to end.”

Herbert’s initial response: “Oh my God.”

His wife, Christiana, 31, muttered: “Oh crap.”

But the couple — both motivational speakers who are uniquely suited for such stressful situations — quickly progressed from frustration to acceptance to Zen.

“This is just another reminder from the universe that this is out of our control,” Jim said. “The only determination of whether or not a flight is good or bad is whether or not it lands.”

Jim and Christiana Herbert said United Airlines handled the service disruption well. | Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times

Jim, who has a background in martial arts, and Christiana, an actress, hoped to depart for Los Angeles by noon – a delay of nearly three hours.

The couple, from the North Park neighborhood, even complimented United.

“Kudos to them,” Christiana said. “The employees here just didn’t know anything at first. But they handled it very well.”

That sentiment was echoed by a man from the western suburbs who was waving at his daughter and new son-in-law as they passed through security Wednesday morning.

The couple switched flights at the last minute and barely averted a disastrous delay that would have ruined their European honeymoon plans.

“It could have gotten ugly real fast,” said the dad, who asked not to be named. “United was very, very, very accommodating.”

Jim and Christiana Herbert took this picture of the backlog created at O'Hare International Airport by a United Airlines computer glitch. | Provided photo

Owen Kilmer, spokesman for the city’s Department of Aviation, said city officials were dealing with the resulting logjam of passengers at the United terminal.

“We’re getting reports that the Chicago Police Department and Aviation (Department) security were sent to the terminal to deal with crowds,” he said. “Just really long lines and a lot of crowds. … I don’t have an exact number [of passengers delayed]. But, it was big enough so that they felt it necessary to send Aviation security and police to help.”

Kilmer also had some better news for passengers inconvenienced by the “network connectivity” issue that forced the ground-stop.

“United will have a waiver available at their website for customers who are able to change their flight plans,” he said.

The airline said earlier Wednesday that it was working to resolve the problems.

“We are recovering from a network connectivity issue this morning and restoring regular flight operations,” A United spokesman said Wednesday morning. “We will have a waiver available at united.com for customers who are able to change their flight plans.”

The Chicago-based company had similar computer issues in Juneforcing a halt of less than an hour, and has experienced technology problems, some causing massive flight delays and cancelations, since it combined the systems of United and Continental after their 2010 merger.

Customers in United Airline's Terminal 1 faced long lines after all flights were grounded Wednesday morning. | Tim Boyle/For the Sun-Times

Wednesday’s situation was being called an “automation issue” in an alert from the FAA, and at around 8:40 a.m. a United passenger at O’Hare told WBBM-AM (780) that he had been told the system was coming back on line, and passengers at several airports — including NBC national correspondent Jeff Rossen, in Florida — tweeted shortly before 9 a.m. that they were being boarded and hoped to depart soon.

United is O’Hare Airport’s flagship carrier; Kilmer earlier in the morning had initially punted questions about the ground-stop to the airline.“They have all the information you need on the cause and the fix,” Kilmer wrote in an email to the Chicago Sun-Times.

In a follow-up phone call, Kilmer said the ground-stop started at 7:05 a.m. and continued until 8:45 a.m. He did not know how many passengers or flights had been impacted, nor did he know how long the delays would last.

“It was an IT issue and it occurred nationwide. It’s back up and running with residual delays,” Kilmer said. “We’re gonna look into the issue and work with our airlines partners to, hopefully, prevent this.”

United flights also had been delayed by a computer glitch in June, but Kilmer said he did not know “if it was the same or a different issue. But, we’re always concerned when it involves United because it affects so many passengers” at O’Hare.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[“source – chicago.suntimes.com”]