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The past month hasn’t been kind to airlines and their passengers.
Just three weeks after a winter storm and Southwest Airlines’ technology failure caused the cancellation of thousands of flights, a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) computer glitch caused more than 6,700 flight delays and more than 1,000 cancellations across the United States, leaving passengers wondering when and if they’d make it to their destinations at all.
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Gary Bembridge, a London-based cruise vlogger, was connected to the Wi-Fi on his flight to Miami when he saw the news alert about the glitch.
“I kept refreshing the feed and watching the flight map to see if we were going to turn around,” Bembridge recalled. “I was nervous for about half the trip as flights were not being given the go-ahead, and worried we’d be diverted. In [the] end we landed, and immigration unusually had no lines.”
A preliminary investigation into the interruption determined that a data file was damaged by personnel who failed to follow procedures, according to a spokesperson for the FAA. The agency also said they are working to “further pinpoint the causes of this issue and take all needed steps to prevent this kind of disruption from happening again.”
“Air passengers have been through a lot, especially in the last year with the disruptions we’ve seen,” said Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg in an interview with CNN following the incident. “We’ve been able to make some major gains in terms of accountability for airlines when it comes to their customer service. We equally have to make sure that the FAA has the systems, the staffing and the operations that it needs to serve our passengers well.”
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) Aviation Consumer Protection program, you may have rights if your travel plans are impacted by a flight delay or cancellation, depending on the reason behind the delay or cancellation. The program applies to all U.S. airlines: Alaska, Allegiant, American, Delta, Frontier, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit and United.