Departing Southwest Airlines passengers wait in line at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Sunday, Oct. 11, 2015. (Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
Yet another airport technology glitch this week forced thousands of travelers to wait in long lines. This time it was the Department of Homeland Security’s systems that went on the fritz, stranding airline passengers in customs queues.
As computers become more prominent in managing our travels, and humans much less so, the delays caused by technical error are continuing to pile up.
The DHS tech drama comes on the heels of last Sunday’s Southwest Airlines tech glitch where the airline experienced hundreds of delayed flights due to a technical issue that affected its mobile app, website and reservation centers. Southwest Airlines did not say what caused the problem. Their employees had to manually issue tickets, meaning those with printed boarding passes were a step ahead.
The delays bled into Monday’s travel, after about 836 delays from 3,355 flights caused chaos across the country, according to a statement by Southwest Airlines.
“Employees worked around issues with primary systems and utilized back-up procedures to get our customers and their checked luggage to their intended destinations,” the airline said.
And this weekend, American Airlines will finalize its merger with US Airways and consolidate the two reservation systems into one. Passengers should be ready to confront a glitch or two when this happens on Saturday.
“All flights departing after 12 a.m. local time on Oct. 17 will fly under the AA code using the Sabre reservations platform.US Airways employees will begin putting their training to use. They’ll start using versions of QIK CHK and GateReader over Sabre and all employees will follow a single set of policies and procedures,” American Airlines said in a statement on its website.
So what do you do when your airline experiences technical difficulties?
The first line of defense is to always print out your boarding pass. Yes, on paper.
“It’s always a good idea to keep a paper record, because once things go wrong they can go very wrong,” Seth Kaplan, managing partner of Airline Weekly, told Yahoo Travel.
Travelers have become so dependent on mobile technology that they forget that sometimes glitches occur, leaving them to use the old-fashioned techniques to board their flight.
“Airlines run very complex, and often very old, computer systems that all need to interact with each other. Sometimes it could be as simple as a connectivity issue that causes an outage. Other times it could be related to changes in one system that impacts another,” Brett Snyder, founder and author of Crankyflier.com, told Yahoo Travel.
There are other things you can do to help mitigate the problem.
“You can kind of help an airline help you by giving them alternatives if you’re flexible,” Kaplan suggested. “If you are flying to LAX, they’re going to look for the next flight specifically to LAX. If you don’t mind going to Orange County, make sure to tell them that. Present them with creative alternatives, nearby airports,” he said.
Kaplan also says there’s nothing wrong with going to the ticket counter AND getting on the phone to the airline’s reservation center at the same time.
“If you’re at the airport and they say get in that line there, get in the line, but also call,” he said. “Do whatever you can do to reach somebody. Let’s face it, you are basically competing with your fellow travelers for the next flight.”