Delta Airlines’ crew-tracking system fell apart when a series of thunderstorms hit the Atlanta area in early April, causing flight to be delayed or cancelled, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The crew-tracking system can send automated voice mails or emails to crews, but in this case those notifications created too many questions that required crews to call in for clarification, according to the report. When crew members called, they got busy signals because Delta did not have enough people to answer phone lines and it's phone systems could not handle the volume.
The breakdown prevented the airline crews from receiving assignments from Delta’s operation center, making the situation much worse and eventually resulting in 4,000 cancellations. In many cases, crews didn't show up for flights, because they were unaware of their assignment.
Airlines have been slow to modernize their systems, and while Delta is not alone in suffering outages, it’s had some of the largest and most-publicized issues.
In January, a major computer systems outage resulted in the cancellation of over 200 Delta flights. Delta's website and mobile app also went down, as did the company’s airport information screens and computers at its reservation desks.
Back-office issues have proven to be big problems at Delta and other carriers recently, but the latest issue proves how even old-fashioned phone systems can become overwhelmed and cause a comedy of errors.
Delta created a task force to review the breakdown and says it will improve its crew-tracking system and add additional phone lines before the busy summer travel season begins. But for some passengers, it could be too little too late.