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Computer glitch delays, grounds all American Airlines flights through 5 p.m.

5:28 PM, Apr 16, 2013   |    comments
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(USA TODAY) -- American Airlines says it has resolved a computer glitch that forced it to ground all of its flights for several hours this afternoon (April 16).

The carrier says it will re-start its flight schedule beginning at 5 p.m. ET, but warned "we expect continued flight delays and cancellations throughout the remainder of the day.

Tampa International Airport: Look Up Your Flight

More than 730 flights on American and regional affiliate American Eagle had been canceled as of 4:15 p.m. ET, according to flight-tracking service FlightAware. An additional 738 American flights were delayed today because of the glitch.

"This is a major outage for American and is the longest flight disruption as a result of a failure of an airline's back-end technology in recent history," FlightAware CEO Daniel Baker says to Today in the Sky. "It is likely to affect over 125,000 travelers today and tomorrow. United had a few similar outages last year, some as a result of the Continental/United merger and related technology fallout, but none were nearly as long as this" problem, which lasted more than 5 hours.

FlightAware says most of the AA's delays and cancellations have come on flights to or from AA's main hub at Dallas/Fort Worth, though Chicago O'Hare, Miami and New York LaGuardia had also seen significant problems.

Even once flights resume, Baker estimated that about 800 additional American and American Eagle flights "will be indirectly impacted by planes and crews out of place."

At American, the airline encouraged fliers with flexible schedules to put off travel.

"If your travel plans are flexible, there will be no charge if you would like to change your reservation and we will provide full refunds if your travel plans are not flexible," Huguely said in the statement to Today in the Sky.

As for American's claim that systems are coming back online, a Dallas/Fort Worth passenger appears to corroborate that story to The Dallas Morning News. The newspaper writes at 4:17 p.m. that the passenger called the newspaper to say that the gate agents for his AA flight to Monterrey, Mexico, have announced the boarding of the flight and that the flights' pilots have boarded the jet. The reader says passengers are lining up to present their boarding passes to gate agents.

In the meantime, reports and photos of long lines at American's check-in counters were streaming in from across the country via both social media and traditional news outlets.

At American's hub in Miami, The Miami Herald reports that landing AA flights have run out of available gates since none of the airline's departures are taking off.

A passenger on one of those flights -- 66-year-old Richard Bell -- tells the Herald he had been stuck on an AA flight arriving from Baltimore. He told the newspaper that the aircraft's engines were running and that the air conditioning was working. But he also said the flight's pilots come over the public address system to warn fliers that some other systems were not functioning.

"He mentioned the toilet specifically as a problem,'' Bell tells the Herald.

NBC 4 of Los Angeles showed a filled-to-the-brim seating area at one of American's gates at Los Angeles International, while the Los Angeles Times shows a number of Tweets from passengers affected by the disruption.

American had been having "intermittent " problems throughout the day, but announced at 2:38 p.m. ET that it was grounding all flights in an effort to resolve the problem.

American initially appeared to blame its the crash on a crash of the Sabre reservations system. However, AA eventually backtracked, saying via Twitter that "the issue is (with) our ability to access our res system" and not with Sabre itself.

The carrier, the USA's third-biggest, first warned customers of the problems via Twitter at 12:30 p.m. ET.

"American's reservation system is experiencing intermittent outages," AA spokeswoman Andrea Huguely said in a 1:50 p.m. ET e-mail to Today in the Sky. "We're working to resolve the issue as quickly as we can. We apologize to our customers for any inconvenience."

Once the scale of the problems became evident, American requested a Federal Aviation Administration ground-top for flights on American and American Eagle.

Speaking to USA TODAY after a Senate hearing, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said AA requested the ground stop based on their operations and concerns about the company's computers.

"It was requested on their end," Huerta said. "It was a problem with their computer system."

"They requested the ground stop based on their operational needs, based on their computer systems," Huerta said.

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