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United Flights Take off After Computer Glitch, But Official Cause Still Unclear

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United logoUnited Airlines’ five-hour computer glitch on Friday canceled planes and delayed flights throughout the weekend.

Although the technical problems were resolved by Saturday morning, many fliers were stranded in airports across the country and delayed for more than 24 hours.

Only 36 flights were canceled, but hundreds of flights were held up. The delays were extensive because many airlines are flying fuller this summer than they have years.

In May 2011, 86.8 percent of United seats were booked. United struggled to reschedule passengers with a limited capacity of open seats resulting in delays into this week.

United wasn’t specific about the technical problem, citing only a “network connectivity issues.” Airline operations are mainly computerized so a network failure shuts down reservations, customer service, passenger processing, and even the flight-path generating system. According to one flier, a pilot also mentioned to the cabin that the computer system that weighted the planes was down.

People have suspected that technical upgrades prompted by the United-Continental merger produced  these  problems. Continental merged with United in May, but many systems are still independent.

GlobeAll Continental flights remained on schedule this weekend though a few of its computer kiosks went out of service.

US Airways also suffered isolated technical problems this past weekend.

A three-hour outage in the Charlotte, North Carolina hub and training center caused delays with both inbound and outbound flights that continued through the weekend.

Some suspect that hackers caused the United and US Airway problems, but both airlines have denied this. United’s explanations about a “network connectivity issue” that was fixed through “troubleshooting procedures” did little to reassure consumers, who worry that their personal data has been accessed.

Critics argue that the airline owes consumers a more thorough explanation.

By Lily J. Kosner for

Related Links: Wall Street Journal, DigitalTrends, AP, CNN, BusinessWeek

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