Delta outage shows how our dependency on technology can ruin our day

- In our increasingly digital world, when the lights go out—so too can a major company.

Monday, the world watched as the increasing reliance on computer systems proved to have downfalls.

Delta airlines says they experienced a power failure at its Atlanta headquarters, and that even the backup systems failed, resulting in the cancellation of more than 1,500 flights Monday and Tuesday.

"We were able to bring our systems back on line and resume flights within a few hours yesterday but we are still operating in recovery mode," said Dave Holtz, Senior Vice President  Operations and Customer Center.

The outage has raised questions about airline vulnerability and the aging computer systems used by carriers worldwide.

Dr. Massoud Amin, director of the Technological Leadership Institute at the University of Minnesota, said that even the best companies in their field are subject to these kinds of technical failures.

“The more we digitize, the more vulnerable we become,” he said.

Amin is a world-renowned technology expert and has pioneered research and development in energy technology. He says Delta had energy back-up but the back-up was likely unknowingly tied to the same system that failed.

“Things that shouldn’t be seemingly connected are connected,” he said. “Most likely it was a question of seemingly isolated events that nobody foresaw and it propagated in a much larger system than anybody could have expected.”

When asked why it’s taking the company so long to get the system back in order, Amin said it isn’t just about re-booting.

“We call it black start in utilities-- starting everything from scratch,” he said. “Moving the pilots, moving the crews, moving fueling, becomes a massive optimization problem that is extremely difficult to do in a short amount of time.”

As of Tuesday, Delta’s computer system that checks-in and boards passengers was still slow.


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