Another Delta IT Meltdown Causing Nationwide Ground Stop

According to the FAA Delta has requested a nationwide ground stop for its mainline and “sub-carriers.” This ground stop applies to domestic destinations only.

Delta’s twitter team is quickly apologizing for their IT team.

This comes one week after United’s computers melted down and isn’t the first time it’s happened to Delta, either. Back in August they falsely blamed a power outage for problems.

Delta’s leadership has been focused on getting the new President to crack down on competition from Gulf airlines, in order to limit choices and raise prices on consumers.

And they’ve spent the IT resources necessary to implement ‘Basic Economy’ fares that don’t allow customers to select seats in advance.

They’ve managed to devalue the SkyMiles program four times in the last year which requires IT focus and to work on how you’ll be able to use your miles to pay for checked bags.

Today’s outage underscores how they’re focusing on the wrong priorities. If they’d spend less time figuring out how to take things away, and more time figuring out how to deliver value for their customers, they might not have these problems as often.

Delta’s core selling proposition is its operational reliability. Delta filed to trademark the phrase ‘the on-time machine’ a claim American Airlines used to make in its late 1980s advertising.

Delta went so far as to stop interlining with American rather than accepting each others’ distressed passengers at industry rates — because Delta is so reliable they don’t need another airline’s network, and don’t want to help out a competitor. They continued to interline with United, under an agreement that has United paying more.

They’re undermining that core proposition. And the cost to Delta for doing so — immediate delays and cancellations, displaced passengers, and aircraft out of position — will be far more than they save by increasing the price of award tickets to Europe.

We don’t yet know the cause of tonight’s meltdown, or when it will be fixed. Delta has told the FAA to expect the next update at 8:30pm Eastern time:

Update 8:28pm Eastern: Ground stop extended, next update 9:30 pm Eastern.

Update 9:35pm Eastern: Ground stop messages now appear separately by hub, show an update time of 10:30 pm Eastern, and suggest likelihood of extending ‘medium’. No longer a systemwide groundstop and some flights taking off.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. ” If they’d spend less time figuring out how to take things away, and more time figuring out how to deliver value for their customers…”

    Love that phrase!


  2. You nailed it. Delta’s priority is to screw up customers and not to serve them better.

  3. This is the absolute last time i will book with Delta. Their support and customer care are suitablt lacking. I was a regular customer but no more, they can stick their miles where they like.

  4. The government needs to step in and force these carriers to invest in more secure infrastructure. This can easily become a safety issue and a potential for loss of life. The airlines have spent millions and millions on stock buy backs for their private equity investors when that money should have been spent on long term upgrades like more modern aircraft and updated computer systems. We need to stop running businesses based on profits this week and instead focus on running businesses for long term success and long term growth. This is why I hate activist investors who like a quick buck and could care less about the company in 5-10 years. They just want to pull out as much cash as they can and move onto their next corporate victim. The Carl Icahn way.

  5. @Mark – the odds of the current government stepping in to do anything that would benefit consumers at the expense of big business is somewhere south of nil.

  6. The ground stoppage most likely is the result of the 7 countries named in Trump’s travel ban. I noticed he left off some of the worst ones like Turkey, The UAE and Saudi Arabia where he has major business interests. Last I heard Turkey had the worst ISIS violence over the past year. Istanbul airport, NYE, etc, etc. So much for really protecting us.

  7. Meh – enough with blaming Delta’s incompetence on Trump. The blame goes squarely to Delta’s president, Ed Bastian, who made political donations to both Republicans and Democrats per as reported in

  8. It’s unfortunate because all that happens here is two things: 1) Delta looks to squeeze more blood out of the stone to make up for lost revenue/costs associated with the outage, and 2) the compensatory Sky Miles given out due to these delays end up further diluting the outstanding pool, which will inevitably lead to devaluation.

    Long story short: Delta doesn’t invest in their IT system and ends up stranding customers, and it will be these same customers paying for fallout.

  9. As a former employee, former IT employee, I thought Delta IT was great but more than a year out of it, Delta’s IT is at least 5 years behind and in some areas maybe 20 years behind. It is a very bureaucratic IT and emphasis were always “Time to market” and what is billable and what is not, doesn’t matter if it was right thing to do, if it was not billable, project sponsored work, you can just kiss it good bye.

  10. Extended another hour to 10:30 pm Eastern with each hub now showing ground stop messages separately, perhaps they will be bringing up hubs one at a time.

  11. Until this personally affects or inconveniences senators or congressmen don’t expect them to care about it. They are in the pockets of these big airlines and their lobbyists. This problem should have been fixed after the last major ground stoppage but most likely they applied a cheap bandaid to it and said politicians will give us cover so don’t spend any more money than necessary to get things back up. Here we are again. Next week it will be United again.

  12. As I have a relative who does work for Delta. All their systems are old from prior to their merger with NW. Someone mentioned bandaid, which is a good description. Delta has so many separate IT systems that really are not integrated. The interfaces are poor and when one system goes down, it drags down others. And back up power is part of problem. Except this outage, it could really cause them to lose corporate business. Is it bean counting for a current quarter profit? Probably, but it doesn’t take much for customers to leave. The grass always looks greener elsewhere, but seldom is.

  13. Delta, United and American are too big. Will it take some serious complications, flight mishaps, or future disruptions, or worse, crashes, to make the- bigger- is- not -better airline concept. An future MaBell situation (ATT) maybe in the civil aviation future. Just a thought. What a mess US civil aviation is. What a tragedy, that though not perfect, choice of airlines wasn’t such a bad i

  14. I was connecting thro MSP and only got delayed 2hour (some would have waited +5), but all the gates were getting dangerously full, with passengers for multiple departing flights assigned to a single gate, over spilling into walkways. Cabin crew and gate team were amazing (DL2305). Perhaps more visas for overseas IT experts would help? App was dead. Website was dead. Amateur hour stuff.

Comments are closed.