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United--Where's The Redundancy?

For some travelers flying United airlines yesterday, it must have felt like Deja Vu, that feeling that you've been here before. For at least the third time in memory since the merger with Continental Airlines their passenger reservation system failed. This failure resulted in delays and missed connections because no one could check in for their flights and agents were basically blinded without access to the reservation systems.

In an era of backups and redundancy, one has to wonder to what degree United, or any airline, actually has redundency, not only of the passenger record information, but of their entire system so a fully mirrored backup is available. While it was nice that the airline didn't charge for cancelling or changing a flight, this kind of inconvenience at the height of the summer travel season can wreck people's lives. Many children are returning to college and going home with schools starting up this week. Business people who have meetings and appointments get put off track, and what's worse because planes can be put out of position for the next day, the cancelations mean passengers may not even have arrived to their destinations yet. This gives a whole new meaning to being "delayed."

This is also making me think about all the suppliers my business is working with, and desire to understand what redundency efforts they have in place, and what we may need in ours.

 

Comments

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JimCanuck

Through a friend who is managing redundancy for a major Canadian bank I have learned that it means huge expenses down to the level of power source redundancy. They even have power lines in from two major generating stations well separated geographically. And then it's all augmented with a lot of battery backup.

Yes, it can be done but complete redundancy can get very expensive and resource demanding.

Andy Abramson

Michael,

When so much is at risk, (putting safety aside) not having an online redundant service creates billions of dollars of inconvenience for the travel public. Missed meetings for business people. Lost money for hotels books and pre-paid, etc. The lack of redundancy only fuels the need for trip interruption insurance, which still means the travel public pays.

Michael Graves

Andy,

I was travelling yesterday. My United flight from Houston to Birmingham was not impacted bu the outage. I was delayed in my ability to retrieve a mobile boarding pass. By the time I reached IAH for my early evening flight the matter had been resolved and terminal B was quiet.

I do wonder if matters of redundancy on systems of this scale are simply deemed too costly. That is, does the airline decide that maintaining fully redundant systems costs more than incurring the occasional outage?

In an industry with slim and variable margins that is a decision that could be made.

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