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"With American Airlines stock at 20 cents, I can't decide between paying for two checked bags or buying half the company."
American Airlines said Tuesday afternoon that it had grounded all of its flights after a nationwide problem with its computer systems.
The airline said it had imposed a ground delay on planes scheduled to take off until 5 p.m. Eastern time as it worked to resolve the issue. By midday more than 400 flights had been canceled, according to American.
The airline said the issue was caused by an inability to get access to its reservations system, called Sabre. The electronic system, often described as the brains of an airline, is responsible for bookings and reservations but also manages a wide variety of functions related to flights, including printing boarding passes, online check-ins, ticketing, and tracking checked bags.
Sabre, meanwhile, said the issue did not come from its own computer systems. Other airlines, including Southwest Airlines and JetBlue, use the reservation system and have not experienced any outages, said Nancy St. Pierre, a spokeswoman for Sabre.
Such nationwide breakdowns are rare but not unprecedented, particularly when airlines merge. United Airlines experienced similar problems last year when its reservation systems failed repeatedly as it merged them with those of Continental Airlines.
But while American Airlines, which is still in bankruptcy restructuring, has agreed to merge with US Airways, the two airlines are nowhere close to integrating their systems because the planned merger still needs to clear regulatory hurdles.
“American’s network system is experiencing intermittent outages,” American Airlines said in a statement. “At this time, we are holding all flights on the ground until later this afternoon, when we will provide another update. We are working to resolve this issue as quickly as we can, and we apologize to our customers for this inconvenience.”
The airline said it would waive fees for passengers who can change their reservation or provide full refunds. But the airline said it would not be able to change current travel plans until it had solved its computer problems.
At Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, thousands of passengers were stranded and waiting for flights, some of which were being canceled. Some passengers described being stuck for long stretches on planes on the runway unable to take off or, having landed, initially unable to get to a gate.
Gate agents there were reduced to learning what was going on by checking the American Airlines page on Facebook.
So how would you handle the PR and Social Media in this case and what can we do to learn from this as car dealers?