FAA System Failure Grounds Flights Across The Country

The FAA’s NOTAM system, which alerts about procedures and risks in flight, went down and the failure has led to hours-long delays and possible flight cancellations even as the air travel delay begins.

Several hundred delays have already been logged domestically before 6 a.m. Eastern. The FAA reports that “Technicians are currently working to restore the system,” but had no further comment beyond what was listed on their website.

Passengers have been complaining about the situation on social media.

While the Secretary of Transportation was all over television during the holidays lambasting Southwest Airlines for its flight cancellations, demanding compensation for passengers, don’t expect him to advocate for anyone inconvenienced by his own FAA’s failures. Similarly, don’t expect to be treated as well as Southwest passengers if you were stuck for more than a day in rural South Carolina on government rail which is regulated by the DOT’s Federal Railroad Administration.

Update 7 a.m. Eastern: FAA says they’re in the process of bringing the system back online:

Update 7:30 a.m. Eastern: all departures paused until at least 9 a.m. Eastern.

Update 8:50 a.m. Eastern: the ground stop has been lifted, but delays are going to cascade throughout the day because planes are behind schedule. And crew will eventually time out, requiring replacement with reserves where available. To the extent some flights do not complete today that they have an effect into Thursday as well.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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 »

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  1. Based on what I hear from several good friends that are controllers and FAA tech specialists the FAA’s air traffic system has been a mess for years. Many of the centers are vastly understaffed with not enough resources or even a plan to get them enough controllers for the future. They have an aging workforce that has mandatory retirement and are losing skill and experience every day without enough replacements. Their technology has improved some in the last decade but the systems still have a long way to go. When you factor in some poor leadership I’m not surprised by this latest issue but just surprised that something like this doesn’t happen on a regular basis.

  2. Interesting how the FAA changed the NOTAMS name from Notice To Airmen to Notice to Air Missions. The usual misdirection of attention from fixing the long standing issues with the FAA air traffic mess to woke terminology. Air traffic control is essential to safety while gender terminology has absolutely no bearing on anything remotely connected with safety, and safety is the FAA mission.

  3. Much of the infrastructure in the US is old, and falling apart. When it comes to IT too many companies treat it as an overhead expense. They need to realize if you spend and have quality reliable systems then it isn’t really an expense but more of a productivity multiple or efficiency enhancer (since companies seem to love buzz words).

    I tried to convince one manager of this at one company I worked for but he was too far from the decision makers. Instead a bunch of high paid tech folks spent a lot of time collecting salary and being unproductive with poor systems working slowly or being down since they were too cheap to spend on systems and talented people.

  4. The number of tech failures experienced at the company I work for, and at other companies, is piling up. Of course we rely on technology too much, and it’s honestly no longer making lives easier – in fact, technology is making things worse in many areas (job losses, doing too much with fewer less skilled people, less human interaction, more reliance on offshore labor and skills, etc.).

  5. this will be a mess of an air travel day even if cancellations don’t soar. Flights are diverting and this happened first thing in the morning so the ripple effect will be huge.
    It should surprise no one if at the end of the day, today goes down as one of the most delayed filled days in US airline history – and the airlines or weather had nothing to do with it.

    Where will the congressional hearings be about this mess?

  6. We fund building and acquisition projects but we tend not to fund ongoing maintenance or restoration. We build a bridge but don’t fund maintenance or restoration . . . and the bridge collapses and dozens of people die. It is the natural consequence of spending policy choices.

    In the military, a program’s life cycle funding is broken out into 1) research, development, test, & acquisition, 2) operating costs, 3) maintenance costs, 4) personnel costs, etc. But, we don’t seem to do that with our highways or bridges . . . and seemingly our aviation systems. We seem to authorize such funds after the fact.

    We know our national infrastructure is crumbling. Anyone who opposes infrastructure restoration has no right to complain.

  7. btw, Gary, this is a really good day to let you know that the changes you have enacted regarding commenting as well as your selection of articles has made this site FAR FAR better.
    Thank you for listening to the feedback and I apologize if I was harsh.
    You have responded and I truly hope your franchise grows even stronger.

  8. But let’s have government run healthcare – seriously, I know the dems love government but come on – you seriously can’t believe they are competent to really run anything. Not saying big corporations are any better but at least they have liability – good luck getting a cent from the government for this fiasco.

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