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Chaos as technical glitch delays hundreds of Southwest flights

Published 12/10/2015

Queues lengthen as Southwest Airlines passengers wait in line at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas (Las Vegas Sun/AP)
Queues lengthen as Southwest Airlines passengers wait in line at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas (Las Vegas Sun/AP)

Southwest Airlines has warned passengers to arrive two hours early and print boarding passes before coming to the airport, after technical issues delayed hundreds of flights in the US.

The Dallas, Texas-based company said it was using back-up systems around the country to check-in travellers lacking printed or mobile boarding passes, but technology problems that began on Sunday morning were continuing.

Southwest said about 450 of the 3,600 flights scheduled for the day had been delayed.

Representatives for Southwest did not say what caused the problem or how long it would take to resolve. Spokesman Brad Hawkins said there was "absolutely no indication now" that the problems were the result of hacking.

At Los Angeles International Airport earlier in the day, several dozen people crowded the Southwest terminal waiting to be issued handwritten tickets.

EJ Schultz, a reporter for Ad Age who was taking a Southwest flight from Chicago's Midway International Airport, said the airline was telling people at the gate that travellers with paper boarding passes were fine. But those who had downloaded their tickets on to their mobile phones were told they had to stand in line.

He said he did not understand why Southwest did not announce that people should print out their boarding passes at home before getting to the airport.

"If everyone had done that, it would have saved so much time," he said.

Mr Schultz said there was a line of about 50 people at the Southwest gate. His flight took off about 15 minutes after its scheduled departure time of 4.30pm.

The long lines at check-in may mean some passengers did not make their flights.

Emily Mitnick, who was flying to Detroit from Denver International Airport, said she missed her 10am flight, even though she parked her car at around 8am. She estimated that about 1,000 people were on line at the check-in for a boarding pass. When she went downstairs to the kerbside check-in, she said there were about 200 people in line there as well.

By the time she got on line to go through security, it was around 10.15am.

"The clock was ticking and the flight took off," said Ms Mitnick, who was trying to get to Detroit through a different flight to Chicago.

Southwest said it was still having "intermittent" technical issues on its website, mobile app and in its phone centres and airports check-in systems. It said that while it was working on the issues, staff at airports were helping customers with their itineraries.

Last month American Airlines experienced computer problems that prevented passengers from checking in and briefly halted flights on select routes. Airline officials said at the time that they fixed the problem after less than two hours, and that there was no indication that its system had been hacked.

In July, hundreds of United Airlines flights were delayed after the airline experienced computer problems for the second time in just over a month. A United representative said at the time that the glitch was caused by an internal technology issue and not an outside threat or hacker.

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