Southwest Airlines computer meltdown leads to nationwide ground stop
OAKLAND, Calif. - Southwest Airlines found itself in hot water again with customers after a computer system failure resulted in a rare ground stop of all its flights on Tuesday.
The airline temporarily grounded nearly 800 of its Boeing 737s.
The Federal Aviation Administration ordered the ground stop while Southwest tried to figure out "data connection issues, resulting from a firewall failure."
Most passengers had no idea that flights were grounded until they got to the ticket counters.
"We have a connector in Vegas that was supposed to leave at 9:45 a.m. Now it's pushed back to 10:31 a.m., and now it's leaving at 2 p.m.," said Southwest passenger Grace Good, a Southwest passenger.
"We hadn't heard anything on the radio or anything, but when we checked in, our flight was almost 40 minutes delayed but still scheduled to go," said another passenger Pattie Spillner.
It took the Walsh family three days to get back to the Bay Area. In Ft. Lauderdale, a ground stop and bad weather delayed their Nashville flight by six hours, which caused them to miss their connection.
All flights were booked on Monday, so Southwest rebooked them into Phoenix Tuesday morning, just in time for Tuesday's ground stop.
"Deja Vu. But, what can you do?," said Mark Walsh.
A poor public address system helped delay their departure to Oakland and home.
"You know, there's no flights. Everything was grounded. And then they say we can fly. But people were missing their flights because you couldn't hear what was going on over the speaker," said Denice Walsh.
Southwest delayed more than 1,700 flights nationwide on Tuesday, which will take the airline hours to fully recover from.
Despite that, some Southwest passengers were understanding.
"There's no way they want this to happen. This is just horrible for them financially and customer service wise. But, everyone's been great," said Spillner.
"Southwest, in the past, has been very good with customer service so, they'll accommodate," added another traveler Sheeba Gart.
But understanding is a delicate thing to maintain in light of the virtual melt down of Southwest's system in December, during the busy holiday travel season when 16,700 flights were canceled and many more delayed.
The ultra busy summer travel season is just six weeks away.