Waiting for an upgrade

EARLY in the morning of August 8th, streams of bleary-eyed passengers arrived at London’s Heathrow airport, hoping for a smooth ride across the Atlantic with Delta Air Lines, America’s second-largest carrier. But most did not realise they were the first victims of the most disruptive IT glitch that has hit an airline in recent years until they got to check-in desks unable to access their details. The snafus—caused by a computer outage 4,000 miles away in Delta’s Atlanta HQ—prompted the airline to cancel more than 2,000 flights, delay several hundred thousand passengers’ journeys, and in some places go back to printing boarding passes on dot-matrix machines fit to be museum pieces.

The chaos highlights how vulnerable big firms are to their IT systems crashing. Delta initially blamed its electricity supplier for the outage. But the airline’s chief operating officer, Gil West, later admitted that a malfunctioning power-control system at its data centre was really to blame. The 22-year-old piece of kit started a small fire, knocking out its primary and backup systems. Either way, unable to access...Continue reading