FAA meltdown chaos continues as flyers hit with over 10,000 delays

Chaos from FAA system meltdown continues as passengers are hit with over 10,000 delays and over 1,000 cancelations (despite agency claiming ‘no unusual delays or cancelations’)… but how will it affect YOU?

  • Passengers were still stranded on Thursday morning on the east and west coasts
  • Major airports including JFK, LAX, Miami and Atlanta all had issues on Thursday
  • It comes two days after the computer meltdown that ground US airlines to a halt
  • Data showed there were over 10,000 delays across and over 1,000 cancelations

Thousands of flyers are still facing flight delays and cancellations after an FAA system crashed – despite the agency saying ‘operations are back to normal.’

Passengers were still stranded on Thursday morning on the east and west coasts, as well as across the central states.

Major airports including JFK, LAX, Miami and Atlanta all had issues two days after the computer meltdown, with experts fearing it may continue into the weekend.

Data showed there were over 10,000 delays across the country as well as over 1,000 cancelations.

Furious customers vented their fury across the states at missing family events and getting back to their studies.

The FAA’s Notice to Air Missions system crashed on Tuesday night due to a corrupt file in its database.

The agency tweeted Thursday morning claiming: ‘FAA operations are back to normal, and we are seeing no unusual delays or cancellations this morning.’

But data from independent flight monitors still showed thousands of delays and cancelations. Here DailyMail.com outlines the situation across the country:

EAST COAST: DELAYS AND CANCELATIONS AT MAJOR HUBS NEW YORK AND ATLANTA

Delays and cancelations continued to cripple the east coast of the US on Thursday as major airports such as in New York and Atlanta suffered.

At LaGuardia Airport there were 51 total delays within, into, or out of the US. Meanwhile there were six total cancellations within, into, or out of the country.

Daniel Dividu, 40, was planning to visit family in Atlanta but got stuck at LaGuardia Airport in New York during the massive disruption.

‘These people are driving me crazy,’ Dividu told The Wall Street Journal.

He said a gate agent had rescheduled him onto another flight four hours later than his original one and called the ordeal ‘too frustrating.’

At JFK there were 54 delays and two cancellations. At Newark Liberty International Airport there were 60 delays and 11 cancellations.

Stranded passengers waiting on the floor of the terminal at JFK International airport 

Delayed passengers at LaGuardia airport waiting for their flights to depart 

Travelers at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia wait in the terminal for their flights as cancelled and delayed flights mount due to an FAA outage that

Airline employees help navigate weary and frustrated travelers amid the chaos. A picture of a male passenger speaking to a United Airlines ticketing at Ronald Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Virginia on Wednesday

Passengers at JFK International airport trying to pass time by sleeping, reading, and looking at their cell phones amid a FAA computer system outage struck nationwide 

A man finds a quiet corner at LaGuardia airport and sits under the ‘I love New York’ sign waiting for his flight on Wednesday

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) is seeing a total of 100 delays and a total of 12 cancellations.

Melanie Thigen was in Atlanta trying to catch a flight to Washington and was trying to remain calm.

‘I do IT for the government. I really didn’t know until I was on my way here that it was a big issue.

‘Then when I looked it up I was super stressed out because I have a meeting at 4pm -but if I don’t make it I don’t make it.’

Ava Thedford who was traveling to Vegas said her delay was not too bad and was taking it in stride.

She continued: ‘We left home to go enjoy ourselves so that is what we are focused on.’

Meanwhile at Washington-Dulles International Airport there were a total of 33 delays and one cancellation today.

And at Miami International Airport (MIA) there were a total of 61 delays and no cancellations.

CENTRAL: MAJOR AIRPORTS CONTINUE TO SEE DISRUPTION AFTER MELTDOWN

At Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) there are a total of 88 delays and 11 cancellations.

Lucas Foster was traveling for business was delayed from Richmond at O’Hare. He was hoping to get home to see his family, but with the delays that never happened.

‘It’s been pretty frustrating I mean I can usually roll with the punches but with my job, I had one day to get home to see my kids and my wife and that’s not gonna happen,’ Foster said.

‘Now I’ve gotta go onto the next job it looks like.’

An arrival board displays the status of flights at the Denver International Airport, as flights were grounded after FAA system outage, in Denver, Colorado

A passenger takes a long break as he waits to catch his flight to Las Vegas that was delayed six-hours departing from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on Wednesday 

Passengers waiting around at the Denver International Airport as flights were grounded after FAA system outage in Denver, Colorado 

Harried travelers loaded down with luggage and strollers are pictured walking through the terminal at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia 

Passengers show concern and frustration at Chicago O’ Hare International Airport as they navigate the computer terminals to check their flights 

Ron Halczak, who arrived late to catch his flight at Chicago O’Hare International Airport described the scene on Wednesday at the airport as ‘insane.’

‘Craziness. People running, missing connecting flights,’ he said, ABC7 News reported.

At Dallas-Forth Worth International Airport there were a total of 65 delays and six cancellations.

Meanwhile at Denver International Airport (DEN) there were a total of 74 delays, and 11 cancellations.

WEST COAST: LESS DISRUPTION BUT STILL SOME FLIGHTS DELAYS

The west coast also was not spared from the ongoing crisis – the latest one to batter the US airline industry – as LAX, San Francisco and Las Vegas were also hit.

At Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) there were a total of 80 delays and six cancellations.

Mruanali Sheth and her sister-in-law were traveling to Mumbai, India from LAX airport with a connecting flight to New York to see family.

Sheth told the Los Angeles Times when she checked their flights everything was on time, but once they arrived at the airport their flight to New York was delayed nearly three hours which made them miss their connecting flight to Mumbai.

The pair eventually got to their destination but missed a day of their trip. Sheth said, ‘I will get one less day, but its not in my hands.’ 

 Ryan Ososki was at LAX trying to get to Washington, D.C. for a work conference. ‘There is just a lot of frustration, a lot of confusion,’ he said.

Cathy Keen, 76, was trying to catch a plane to Austin, Texas to get to her young sister who, she said, is battling a terminal illness. Despite, a few gate changes she was able to get onto the flight. 

‘I’m glad my flight isn’t canceled, because I have to get there,’ she said.

Meanwhile, South Korean K-pop music group New Girls were heading back to Korea for a scheduled concert on Friday but got stranded in the US, though it was unclear which airport the girl band was stuck at.

Their agency Ador issued a statement on Thursday informing fans of that their activities planned for Friday would be cancelled due to the flight system outage, The Korean Herald reported. 

Passenger Julia Macpherson was on a United airlines flight returning to Florida from Hobart, in Tasmania when she heard about the chaos midair.

‘As I was up in the air I got news from my friend who was also traveling overseas that there was a power outage,’ Macpherson.

At San Francisco International Airport (SFO) there were a total of 73 delays and three cancellations.

And at Harry Reid International Airport (LAS) there were a total of 60 delays and no cancellations.

Travelers wait to hear if their flight will depart on time, at Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles

Flyers wait in the terminal as an Alaska Airlines plane sits at a gate at Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles

People check into their flights at Harry Reid International Airport, Wednesday, in Las Vegas

Customers wait to check on to their planes at Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas

FAA meltdown explained: What is NOTAM and why did its failure lead to the grounding of all US flights?

  • Nationwide ground stop halted all US flight departures on Wednesday morning
  • Meltdown was caused by failure of NOTAM system used to advise pilots
  • A NOTAM is a notice with information on hazards and is essential to pilots
  • The White House says there is ‘no evidence’ of a cyber attack in the outage
  • For live updates on the FAA system outage follow DailyMail.com’s coverage here 

The failure of a system that alerts pilots and other flight personnel about key information including hazards led to the temporary grounding of all US domestic flights on Wednesday morning.

From about 7am to 9am, the FAA halted all US domestic departures, a disruption that affected at least 4,000 scheduled flights, in the first nationwide ground stop since September 11, 2001.

The FAA said the chaos was caused by an outage in the NOTAM system, which had stopped processing updated information.

‘The FAA is working to restore its Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) System,’ the FAA said in a statement at 6.29am. ‘Operations across the National Airspace System are affected.’ 

The national ground stop was lifted shortly before 9am, with the FAA saying in a statement that it was investigating the origin of the outage. 

Here is what is known so far about the outage, its origins, and potential impact: 

What is the NOTAM system? 

The halt on takeoffs was prompted by a failure in what is known as the Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) system.

A NOTAM is a notice containing information essential to pilots and other flight personnel, but not known far enough in advance to be publicized by other means. 

Before commencing a flight, pilots are required to consult NOTAMs, which list potential adverse impacts on flights, from runway construction to the potential for icing. 

Information can go up to 200 pages for long-haul international flights and may include items such as runway closures, general bird hazard warnings, or low-altitude construction obstacles.

The NOTAM system is seen above, with a list of advisories for JFK Airport in New York. Advisories issued prior to the disruption still appeared during Wednesday’s outage

The system used to be telephone-based, with pilots calling dedicated flight service stations for the information, but has now moved online.

The NOTAMs sent by the FAA are part of a global safety system managed through the United Nations’ aviation agency. 

In an advisory, the FAA said its NOTAM (Notice to Air Missions) system had ‘failed’. 

There was no immediate information about the cause of the outage, though NOTAMs issued before the outage were still viewable. 

The outage caused widespread disruption and led to a nationwide ground stop. All aircraft are required to route through the system, including commercial and military flights.

In response to questions from DailyMail.com regarding the cause of the outage, and whether there are backup systems in place for the NOTAM system, the FAA shared its previously issued statements. 

‘Normal air traffic operations are resuming gradually across the United States following an overnight outage to the FAA’s Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) system that provides safety information to flight crews. The ground stop has been lifted,’ the most recent statement said.

‘The agency continues to look into the cause of the initial problem.’

Why were all US flights grounded?

With the NOTAM system offline, air traffic controllers couldn’t risk allowing pilots to take off without potentially key information about hazards on their route. 

In the past, pilot lapses in reviewing information in NOTAMs have nearly led to deadly incidents.  

In July 2017, an Air Canada jet landed on the wrong runway at San Francisco’s airport and came within seconds of colliding with four other planes.

The notice of the closure of one of the two runways at the airport had been flagged in the pre-flight NOTAM – on page eight of a 27-page briefing – and missed by the pilots.

Since then, the UN Civil Aviation Organization has been leading an effort to overhaul the system to make it easier for airlines and pilots to filter the most important warnings and present them in clearer language. 

A display shows flights, many delayed, at LaGuardia Airport in New York on Wednesday. A computer outage at the FAA brought flights to a standstill across the US

After Wednesday’s NOTAM outage, the FAA ordered all US flights to delay departures until 9am Eastern, though airlines earlier said they were aware of the situation and had already begun grounding flights.

At 8.40am, there were more than 4,000 delayed flights within, into or out of the United States, according to the flight tracking website FlightAware, exceeding the number of all delayed flights on the previous day. 

More than 1,900 flights have been canceled, and those numbers are likely to grow.

More than 21,000 flights were scheduled to take off in the US today, mostly domestic trips, and about 1,840 international flights were expected to fly to the US, according to aviation data firm Cirium.

Zach Griff, a senior writer at travel experts The Points Guy, told DailyMail.com that disruptions from the widespread delays and cancelations could last through Thursday.  

‘Once the system became operational again, flights were theoretically allowed to resume but — and this is the kicker — airlines can’t simply just ‘restart’ their operations,’ said Griff.

‘Many planes were already delayed and in the wrong place, while flight crews operating these planes were already thrown off schedule.

‘Flight crews can only legally work a certain number of hours, and specific planes were already scheduled for flights that’ve since been delayed.

‘Together, this domino effect will continue to lead to a slew of delays and cancellations throughout the U.S. today and likely into Thursday,’ he added.

Could this be a cyber attack? 

The White House said that there is no evidence of a cyber attack, but President Joe Biden directed the Department of Transportation to investigate the cause of the disruption.  

Biden addressed the FAA issue Wednesday before leaving the White House. He said he had just been briefed by Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who told him they still had not identified what went wrong.

Grounded planes at Washington Reagan airport on Wednesday morning after an FAA systems failure grounded all flights across the country 

‘I just spoke to Buttigieg. They don’t know what the cause is. But I was on the phone with him about 10 minutes,’ Biden said. 

‘I told him to report directly to me when they find out. Air traffic can still land safely, just not take off right now. We don’t know what the cause of it is,’ the president added.

Buttigieg said in a tweet that he is in touch with the FAA and monitoring the situation.

Has this ever happened before?

The last time the FAA issued a nationwide ground stop, halting all departures from US airports, was in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

Regional or airport-specific ground stops have been issued since then, primarily over security incidents, though even those are quite rare.

Tampa: Passengers stranded at Tampa airport in Florida on Wednesday 

For instance, on January 10, 2022, the FAA issued a ground stop for the West Coast and Hawaii. 

Though officials gave no explanation for the halt in takeoffs, it was widely believed to be related to a North Korean missile test. 

Experienced pilots call the outage of the NOTAM system unprecedented, and cannot recall a similar technical incident with such widespread impact on flights. 

However, Wednesday’s disruption follows a software meltdown at Southwest Airlines that led to the cancellation of more than 16,700 flights last month.

In that incident, Southwest’s software that matches crew with planes collapsed under the weight of rescheduling requests as staff were stranded across the country due to a massive winter storm. 

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