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Delta Grounds All Its Airplanes After Power Outage


Well, hope you are not trying to fly this morning on Delta Airlines. Hundreds of flights are delayed or canceled after the airline had to ground its entire fleet because of a system outage. Earlier this morning, we reached one person stuck in this mess, Jackie Watanabe (ph). She was trying to get from Las Vegas to Raleigh.

JACKIE WATANABE: Every few minutes, they just kept saying they're still having computer issues. They couldn't figure out if it was just local or if it was system-wide. And then eventually they said it was global.

GREENE: Global - that gives you a sense of how big this problem was. Now, we are told the ground stop has now been lifted. No telling, though, how quickly Jackie and other passengers will make it to their destinations. Let's bring in NPR's David Schaper who has been following this story from Chicago. And, David, what happened?

DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: Well, David, there was a power outage in Atlanta, which is where Delta Airlines is headquartered. And that impacted Delta's computer systems and operations worldwide.

GREENE: Like a power outage, like, would affect my house, your house? I mean, just a regular...

SCHAPER: Apparently, what they're saying is that the power outage just brought their whole computer system down, at least their reservation system. And that prevented people from being able to check in at the airport or even find out if their flight was on time. So it was a chaotic situation at airports with thousands of people. You know, Monday's a really busy day for business travelers...

GREENE: Oh, yeah.

SCHAPER: ...In particular, early in the morning. Arriving to the airport, you know, thinking that, you know, it's going to be business as usual and just chaos ensued...

GREENE: It wasn't at all.


GREENE: Well, were passengers who were actually flying already in any danger? I imagine, you know, overnight flights that actually were in the air when this might have happened - anyone at risk at any point?

SCHAPER: Not at all. And what the airline has said is that the operation systems on the planes that were in the air were fully functional and operating. They contact with the FAA in the airports they're headed to and are able to land those flights without any problem at all. So operations for flights that had already left and were already in the air when this outage happened at about 2:30 in the morning Eastern time were not affected at all. Though, once those people arrived at the airport they were heading to, and maybe were trying to connect to go somewhere else, they were stuck.

GREENE: They got some bad news trying to make that connection. Any idea how quickly Delta can get things back to, you know, even being close to on time?

SCHAPER: Well, the airline said in a statement just a little while ago that the ground stop has been lifted and there are limited departures resuming following this power outage. The problem is it could take quite some time because all kinds of people maybe left and went back home or went to where they'd been staying before. So they're just - were really in no position to, you know, catch another flight. They've got to reschedule folks all over the place. It could take a couple of days for the airline to recover...

GREENE: Yikes.

SCHAPER: ...And get people where they need to go.

GREENE: OK. A total mess as we just heard from my colleague David Schaper in Chicago, talking to us about Delta having to ground all of its flights this morning. It does sound like they're starting to get their system back online. David, thanks a lot.

SCHAPER: Thank you, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Schaper is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, based in Chicago, primarily covering transportation and infrastructure, as well as breaking news in Chicago and the Midwest.
David Greene is an award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author. He is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, the most listened-to radio news program in the United States, and also of NPR's popular morning news podcast, Up First.