Cranky on the Web (April 15 – 19)

Air Traffic Control, American

What the Heck is a Ground Stop?Conde Nast Daily Traveler
After the ground stop in Boston following the explosions at the marathon and another one for American’s computer failure the following day, CN thought it was a good idea to explain just what that means.

In the Trenches: Time to Hire AgainIntuit Small Business Blog
After more growth, the time has come to hire another travel architect. If you know anyone who is interested, send me a note at

When airlines outgrow their computersMarketplace
I spoke with Marketplace about American’s computer problems.

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13 comments on “Cranky on the Web (April 15 – 19)

    1. Nick – Well, it is certainly irrelevant in this particular case. They came to me with the thought that it was Sabre’s old system that caused the problem, but I completely disagreed. This was not a Sabre issue. Looks like they got Brancatelli to say what they wanted.

      It is true that there are varying ages to different parts of the systems they use, but I don’t think that’s Sabre’s real problem. Sabre’s real problem is it strategy.

      Probably also important to keep Sabre’s GDS separate from its airline hosting systems, because they are different. But this piece was clearly not going to get into that kind of detail.

    2. Software doesn’t stop working just because it’s old. It may get difficult to maintain, difficult to extend, difficult to interface with new software, but it doesn’t just rot. Old software is difficult to replace precisely because of the effort needed to replicate the many thousands of programmer hours that got it working properly in the first place. Recently there have been several major glitches when airlines tried to migrate to brand new systems — a good illustration of why patching the old, reliable workhorse is often the prudent way to go.

      1. I’d also be interested in knowing how much if any of the design and code goes back to the 1960s.. I’d surmise that whole pieces of Sabre have been torn out and replaced, so the oldest bits might only be from the 1980s.

        Oh while we’re at it your credit card is probably managed on an old mainframe system too, that seems to work reasonably well also.

      2. Ron – Agreed, though as they start to layer on different pieces of software, there can be conflicts that cause the system to no longer work. Of course, that doesn’t mean the old software didn’t work it just means that it’s a lot harder to patch a bunch of different pieces together and have them all function in concert. I’m not suggesting that was the issue here – just getting off into random tangents!

        Nick – I have no clue how much of the code is that old. And I doubt Sabre is really going to talk about that. So if anyone has any Sabre friends, then maybe you can get an off the record idea.

        1. I was specifically reacting to the Brancatelli quote “Rather than stop and start again, they?re always upgrading, updating changing stuff…” Starting from scratch throws away all the knowledge that’s baked into the old code, and that’s a lot of knowledge.

  1. The Boston ground stop was sent around the world over the major news medias to scare the public into thinking all flight were grounded to be searched for the suspects. Goes to show how a simple thing can be turned into a (unreal) major news item just to get view TV ratings and hits on internet stories.

    1. David – I hadn’t read the comments, but yeah, you’re right. I love the Sabre defense in there. They were pretty pissed off when American first blamed them. No love lost between those companies.

      But what’s up with the jackass blaming me just for being crankyflier?! I was the only one in there without an inaccuracy! ;)

      1. Saw that, it was hilarious. To see someone rip you based on the name of your blog, without bothering to read into your credentials or to see that you are basically the go-to guy for news media when they need sound bites around air travel, and get quoted by major media once or twice weekly… Absolute ignorance, very insulting.

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