RDU computer problems solved, but delays, cancellations linger

Computer problems in Terminal 2 at Raleigh-Durham International Airport led to flight delays and cancellations Tuesday for several airlines, officials said.

The “hardware failure” affected airlines’ ability to check in passengers for outbound flights, RDU President and Chief Executive Michael Landguth said. Airport staff and an outside vendor worked for more than eight hours before they were able to diagnose and fix the problem by about 2:15 p.m., he said.

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“I’d like to apologize to all of our customers we’ve created a disruption to here at RDU, but we are working diligently here to try to resolve this,” Landguth said at a news conference. “We try to have a very high reliability with these systems, but we failed them today.”

United Airlines, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines had to cancel about 35 flights combined, Landguth said, and more cancellations were possible into the evening. United, American, Delta, JetBlue, Air Canada and Alaska Airlines also had an undetermined number of flights delayed by the problem, which came on the heels of a weekend snowstorm that canceled dozens of flights.

“We have this cascading effect of a snow event plus a computer outage, so there’s quite a few people that have been impacted and need to get rebooked,” Landguth said.

Although he expressed confidence that airport operations would return to normal by Tuesday night, he urged flyers to check with their individual airline to determine if a specific flight will be delayed or canceled.

RDU staff distributed water and snacks to passengers stuck in the terminal.

Landguth said three hard drives failed in a computer system that was already scheduled to be replaced Thursday, preventing the computer terminals airline agents use to check in passengers and baggage from communicating with RDU’s main computer. Passengers were still able to use check-in kiosks.

“Planes are taking off as much as we possibly can in terms of processing the passengers,” he said late Tuesday morning.

IT staff were able to patch the bug in the system, he said Tuesday afternoon, adding the issue was strictly a system failure and wasn’t caused by any cyber attack.

The problem didn’t affect Terminal 1, where Southwest Airlines operates.

“There always is that fear that you’re not going to make the flight. I’m not too worried about that yet,” said Katherine Hubbard, a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student heading to Madrid through Philadelphia for a study abroad semester. “Enough time has passed, and I’m not freaking out or anything.”

Paul Melbostad said the computer problem marked his second delay at RDU as he tried to return to San Francisco after coming to Raleigh for the inauguration of Gov. Roy Cooper, a former classmate. The weekend snowstorm led to the cancellation of his first flight out.

“This is my second day trying to get back home,” Melbostad said. “You have anxiety when you don’t know what’s really going on.”


Reporter: Amanda Lamb
Photographer: Chad Flowers
Web Editor: Matthew Burns