Thousands of Delta Air Lines passengers around the world are facing delays with all of the company's departing flights having been grounded over a system-wide computer failure.
Well after Delta flight 1 was due to depart from Heathrow airport on Monday morning, destination New York JFK, the airline’s website was promising an “On time” departure and an arrival four minutes ahead of schedule. But that departure, like all the others worldwide, had been suspended.
The airline said: “Due to a computer outage, flights awaiting departure are currently delayed. Flights enroute are operating normally.”
In responses to passengers on Twitter, the airline said: “Our systems are down everywhere. Hopefully it won't be much longer.”
The failure of the airline’s computer systems has only a minor effect on aircraft in flight - disabling routine messages to and from the flight deck, without affecting safety. But prior to departure, vast amounts of data are exchanged between Delta’s hub in Atlanta and its teams at individual airports around the world. For example, aircraft flying to the US are not allowed to depart until a full and complete passenger manifest has been supplied to the American authorities.
Delta is one of the three largest airlines in the world, and the problem hit at a key moment: the start of the working week, when the first wave of flights from Europe was due to depart to the US, along with evening departures from Asia.
The airline told passengers to “check the status of their flight before heading to the airport while the issue is being addressed”.
At Heathrow Terminal 4, confusion and frustration increased with little information beyond the misleading claims at delta.com that flights 59 to Boston and 195 to Philadelphia were also on time - long after they were expected to take off.
One passenger Amanda Jackson told NBC News that she waited more than 90 minutes to check in for a flight to Seattle on her way to Alaska. She claimed there were long lines at Delta counters, along with “a lot of very frustrated people.”
Affected travellers may be able to claim compensation under EU passengers’ rights rules if they arrive at their destination three hours or more behind schedule - depending on whether the outage is regarded as an “extraordinary circumstance”. All passengers are entitled to meals, and if necessary accommodation, until they can be flown to their destination.
Passengers on Twitter also reported problems — including the inability to check in or being stuck on the tarmac — from airports around the world, including San Francisco, Las Vegas and Athens.