Five Days Into Massive Cancellations, American Still Doesn’t Know What’s Wrong

American’s wholly owned regional carrier PSA Airlines cancelled 675 flights on Thursday and Friday. And yesterday the massive cancellations began again.

My guess was this happened:

It turns out that Saturday was better than Thursday and Friday largely because fewer people fly and there are fewer flights on Saturday. The problems returned Sunday and continue today. American Airlines still isn’t sure exactly what’s causing their systems to fail. I am told explicitly that the issue is not hacking.

The servers in Dayton, Ohio just aren’t working properly. Their spokesperson describes it as a “latency issue.” That “applications [are] running too slowly.”

They believe it’s not network or bandwidth-related. Instead the hardware or software is failing when managing the full schedule of American Eagle flights PSA operates. It was described to me as a “computer system hardware application issue” though I take that to mean a hardware or application issue.

As a result they’ve been cancelling half of PSA flights, to bring the traffic down to a level that the system can handle. And American has dispatched a plane of staff to Dayton to work on the issue. Here they are arriving on site,

PSA operates nearly half of American’s flights in Charlotte. So far today they’ve cancelled over 230 arrivals and over 230 departures at that airport, and over 500 flights system wide. With Charlotte running an 89% load factor today over 13,000 passengers have been affected by cancelled departing flights.

Here are the top cancelling airlines today per FlightStats,

American hasn’t had as many system meltdowns as United and Delta have over the past several years. In some sense it’s their ‘turn’ although here it’s limited to just one of their ‘express’ carriers (albeit one they own).

Unfortunately though they haven’t issued a travel waiver for Charlotte. So if you’re booked on a PSA flight — even though half are being cancelled — they haven’t announced plans to allow customers to rebook for a time when flights are more likely to operate.

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 »

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  1. Based on this, my theory is that at some point they made a change to hardware or software that resulted in increased processing time (probably database queries). Eventually, processing time increased such that it takes more than 24 hours to do all the stuff they need to do every day. Once this happened, they tried to incase the number of hours in a day. When that failed, they started cancelling flights.

  2. This is a nightmare for flyers. And as of June 18, 8:35 pm Central Time – there still is NOTHING on the AA website “Travel Alerts”. Gary – have you seen any kind of official statement from AA?

  3. What’s the issuel? Our load factors are phenomenal and we are saving gobs of money on staff and fuel.

  4. I’m a travel agent and my client was affected by PSA last Friday going from St. Louis to Birmingham via Charlotte at 11 AM in time for a 5 PM meeting. The STL-CLT flight was operating but the flight to BHM was cancelled. They emailed him protection at 5 PM arriving about midnight. Client called me and I duked it out with AA. Got the outbound flight refunded, sold him a one way on another airline about the same price as original cost and kept original return and they emailed him apologies and gave him 15,000 AA miles for the inconvenience.
    If this helps anyone else affected.

  5. I’ll agree with @charlieh, if there are performance problems then they need to find the bottleneck and fix the problem. It shouldn’t require a team to go to the site, just need remote access. Many of us work from home doing just that. And I’d be fired if I caused problems like this for my company, day after day after day.

  6. So there is no redundancy? If Dayton servers go down, backup servers elsewhere should kick-in.

    I guess AA cares more about their shareholders than actually investing in the technology that keeps the company moving.

  7. Another day, another example of just how crappy this airline now is.

    Too bad (for flyers, that is) there isn’t any meaningful competition for flyers to turn to so that an airline this crappy would deservedly join the ranks of long ago dead airlines that did die when they were as horribly mismanaged, and their products were crappy, but LESS crappy than Dougie’s current crappy version of the once venerable American Airlines.

    But of course, Dougie doesn’t care because he knows he doesn’t need to care…there ain’t any competition to worry about…and there ain’t any coming around anytime soon…

    …so it doesn’t really matter how crappy Dougie’s airline is already, or will be as it races at warp speed to a bottom even lower than the bottom it already is when one of its wholly owned subsidiaries has several days’ of operational meltdowns…

    “So what? Who cares?” is the attitude that comes to mind.

    And that attitude exists because the truth is, Dougie can say, “So what…we don’t NEED to care” – our shareholders LOVE our abusive cartel’s profits anyway, and THAT’S all that matters.

    And as long as we, as a society, don’t care about the importance of demanding competition in critical industries, like our airlines, then the liars and cheats who run our airlines have every right to continue saying “So what? Who cares?” – the consumers don’t care…so why should we?

    Oh, well, such is life in a country were far too many people would rather allow themselves to be consumed by their personal irrational prejudices and fears instead of how they’re actually being screwed by corrupt politicians and dishonest corporations whom have figured out clever ways to distract attention while picking everyone’s pockets and screwing the idiots that support them.

    Go figure!

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