A company-wide computer glitch forced United Airlines to ground all its flights this morning.
United spokesman Charles Hobart says the airline started to delay flights around 9am Eastern time “to ensure aircraft departed with proper dispatching information.” At 9:25 the FAA issued an air traffic control advisory that all United Flights were grounded.
Hobart could not immediately say how many flights were affected, nor if the airline knew the root cause of the issue. Aboard a New York-bound flight in Los Angeles this morning, the pilot told passengers that the computer system was “a complete mess,” according to a Quartz reporter who was traveling on the flight, and that the plane was grounded because they were getting faulty flight clearances.
United’s computer problems came just a month after American Airlines experienced a similar service disruption, and during a period where the United States is expanding its reliance on new technology in the cockpit.
On April 28, a issue with American’s cockpit iPad application grounded approximately 24 flights, according to USAToday. The Federal Aviation Administration’s NextGen initiative includes new technology that allows for cockpit to tower text-based messaging and displays, providing pilots with information about the location of other aircraft on the surface of an airport.
The FAA lifted the “ground-stop” on United flights at 9:33am. At United’s three main hubs Chicago O’Hare, Denver, and Bush Intercontinental in Houston, only five flights are typically scheduled to depart between 9am and 9:33am, according to schedule data from PlaneStats.com. Eleven flights are typically scheduled to depart Newark and five flights are typically scheduled to depart Los Angeles.
United Airlines is the US’s fourth largest air carrier, flying 15% of all domestic passenger miles in the most recently reported 12 months, according to the US Bureau of Transportation Statistics.