3 Links I Love: Southwest’s Inexcusable IT Meltdown, Why Concorde Failed, Boeing 100

Boeing, Concorde, Southwest, Technology

Hope you like videos, because this week is full of them.

This week’s featured link:
Live from the Listening Center discussing recovery efforts with Southwest’s Chief Operating OfficerSouthwest Airlines Facebook Page
If you were flying Southwest over the last couple of days, you’re probably really, really angry. On Wednesday, Southwest had a massive tech failure, and that caused total chaos with major delays and cancellations stretching into Thursday. So what happened?

The video above shows the airline’s Chief Operating Officer trying to explain this in basic terms (starting around 2m15s in the video). The gist of it appears to be that a router failed, the backup systems didn’t kick in, and that cascaded into a meltdown. By the time the airline could scramble, reboot servers, and get applications back on line, it was… 12 hours later. Airlines are highly dependent upon technology, so it is truly inexcusable that proper backup systems weren’t functioning in a case like this. It is truly mind-boggling.

Links I Love

Two for the road:
This plane could cross the Atlantic in 3.5 hours. Why did it fail?Vox
Here’s a great little video talking about the history of Concorde and why it failed. It’s definitely worth a watch for the awesome vintage images alone, but the story is good as well.

Boeing Centennial Light ShowYouTube
Boeing celebrated 100 years last week and part of the celebration involved projecting imagery on to the side of a 747. The result was pretty stunning. So I present to you, yet another video.

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32 comments on “3 Links I Love: Southwest’s Inexcusable IT Meltdown, Why Concorde Failed, Boeing 100

  1. No one has said yet, but was the Southwest IT meltdown part of the cutover to the new Amadeus reservations system WN is buying? When might that happen?

      1. Thanks Brett. I was disappointed I couldn’t use Pre-check on a recent WN international trip. That seems like it should be a simple fix to print “TSA PreCheck” on ALL boarding passes and not just some. They replied to my inquiry that they don’t offer that yet, which was a “Captain Obvious” reply that didn’t address the “why not?” aspect of my question. Maybe Amadeus will solve that.

    1. It’s called WN’s antiquated system that can’t even communicate with travel agents GDS systems completely

  2. Southwest lost me as a regular customer a few years ago when every flight I took was late by 1-1.5 hours for over a year. Now I fly them only rarely, e.g. OAK-LAX. Hard to feel sorry for them but I do prefer them to Delta, which runs a good operation but whose 757s are the most uncomfortable planes I have ever flown.

    1. Try Alaska where possible. They got my vote after 2 trips and whenever I am purchasing tickets using my own money, they will always get my cash

  3. There was an earlier cranky flyer post about SW IT system upgrade to the one they already using for international

  4. @visitor…you think the 757 is uncomfortable, try sitting in seat 18 ef on the MD-90. I work for SWA and think our seats are hard. Delta was worse than ours at least on the MD-90. The 717 seats were nice.SWA is in process of changing our interiors. They really are good. And yes SWA IT had a complete meltdown Wed. I couldn’t even get hold of crew sked.

    1. Please can someone tell me date of the prior CF blog about SW aging reservation system and plans to upgrade to the modern one they already being used for international flights?

        1. CF Hmmmm, could swear you had done a piece a few months ago but must have read it elsewhere then. Seems like a post you should do then maybe? Would love to read that post hahahahhahaha

          1. I thought I read the same piece on CF a few months ago. Did we both read about the new system somewhere else?

            1. Yup I am with you Barry Gonna find that month old posting Cause just know it’s there hahahhahha

            2. Barry, the article was 7/1/2016. I just did a google search. We were right, hahahhahaha Wally 3 Links I Love: Southwest’s Ancient Tech, Government Moves on UAE/Qatar, Alaska Goes SLO

        2. CF, This is the post of which I was talking The link and not you talk about the transfer from Braniff based system to Amadeus Wally 3 Links I Love: Southwest’s Ancient Tech, Government Moves on UAE/Qatar, Alaska Goes SLO

          1. Oh yeah, that one. I didn’t think you meant that one because I just linked out. I didn’t really write about it. But yes, that’s a good article.

  5. i had one flight on the Concorde..Paris to new york very memorable and i still have the souvenirs they gave you.. pen/paper etc .. The 3.5 hours went by very fast you barely had time to finish the champagne and caviar!!!!


  6. So right now I’m monitoring Southwest 882 BWI–LAX which is delayed. My contact waiting at the gate told me already an hour ago that the gate agent said it would be a 2 hour delay, and indeed the incoming flight from Orlando is in the air and 2:30 hours late. But the Southwest web site just keeps pushing departure and arrival incrementally every 15 minutes (same with flightstats, who probably get their info from the same source). Why do they do it this way? At this point I’d guess they’re no longer considering an aircraft swap (not sure if they ever did), so why not post a realistic departure time from the start?

    1. Ron – That airplane isn’t coming from Orlando. It’s already in Baltimore, so my guess is that it’s an issue with getting the crew there.

      1. I stand corrected; indeed, the person waiting at the gate did mention something about crew. Still, the gate agent knew from the start that it would be a 2 hour delay. Why is the web site pushed back by 15 minutes every 15 minutes?

        1. Ron – How do you know that they knew it would a delay that long? Baltimore is a place with a lot of crew on reserve. There’s always a chance they could have found one. The airplane was certainly there.

            1. Gate agents don’t know whether something is being done behind the scenes or not to try to keep the flight on time.

  7. The Boeing centennial show using the 747 as the projection screen was awesome!

    It is really amazing when you realize how large a 747 is!

    Made me want to take a ride in one again before they are all put out to pasture!

    Thanks for sharing it CF!

    Happy 100th Boeing!

  8. I couldn’t make it through the video from Southwest. I heard “A router failed and we had to reboot 400 servers”… I was an IT guy many moons ago now, and that just got too high on my BS meter.

    There is no possible way that should be the case. You can’t hide behind having had redundant systems that failed in some freak way. There is no reasonable way that your network traffic can be that dependent on one single network pathway that all your servers crash without some serious and fundamental incompetence.

    That guy either did not have any idea what he was talking about (which you could understand from an exec that high, but then what was he doing saying it…) or their systems are even worse and more incompetent than has been reported.

  9. I was one of the stranded flyers in Austin. I probably still wouldve been there if I didn’t get lucky and get on a united flight standby.

    I saw one flight leave and two others board in five hours. Gate agents were writing paper standby tickets.

    Called Southwest yesterday and they said we show your flight as flown. I said thats funny, because I have both of my boarding passes from United.

    I was told to put a refund request in on the website. Today I was given a refund for the flights I missed, $200, and 50? off another flight. This is going to cost Southwest a fortune.

    No excuse for the failure of systems. I used to work for AA managing the network. They have 3 data centers, two are just for redundancy.

  10. I work for SWA, and can tell you that for ages now our computer systems were/are from the old Braniff. Granted they are improving with intl trvl and such, but still a long way to go. With the IT meltdown on Wed, I couldn’t even get hold of crew sked

  11. 1. I was victim to the SWA outage today … My plane made it to SeaTac but after delays the crew timed out upon arrival. Thankfully I was able to book on Alaska instead. The lines were insane…this is definitely going to cost them a fortune.
    2. The Boeing light show was one of the most incredible things I’ve seen. Being there in person was wild. They did a great job with the whole centennial celebration, and made me incredibly proud to be a Boeing employee.

  12. There is simply no excuse for Southwest’s tech issues. None.

    As much money as the airline industry has been making, and Southwesr chose not to upgrade their system? Unreal.

    The fact that they can’t have a different schedule on one weekday versus another, in this day and age, is unbelievable.

  13. Don’t expect it to get any better with the change to Amadeus. They chose that for 1 reason-money. It’s the cheapest, crappest system out there. Each entry is longer than the entry on any other system. Someone needs to design a new system from the ground up using today’s technology. I’m no IT pro, but I’m sure that the more you add to an antiquated system just slows it down, a la Microsoft Windows. With each update or fix it just gets slower

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