September 28, 2017 / 2:48 PM / 2 years ago

UPDATE 1-U.S. government auditor to look into airline IT disruptions -letter

(Adds outages reported Thursday around the world, background, no immediate comment from airline group)

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON, Sept 28 (Reuters) - The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) will examine a series of technology failures at major airlines that resulted in thousands of flight cancellations, according to a letter seen by Reuters.

Senator Bill Nelson of Florida sought the probe in August after a series of airline technology failures.

In August 2016, Delta Air Lines Inc was forced to ground 2,000 flights after a small fire resulted in a “massive failure” at the airline’s technology center.

Other disruptions include one that prompted Southwest Airlines Co to cancel over 2,000 flights in 2016 and two outages at United Continental Holdings Inc.

“The issue of airline IT system crashes is serious and appears to be getting worse,” Nelson wrote in a letter to GAO in August, asking that the office looks into the impact of those IT crashes on passengers and asks for regulatory or legislative suggestions aimed at preventing outages.

A major U.S. airline trade group did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

On Thursday, major airlines around the world were briefly hit by computer problems, causing some minor delays at airports, due to a problem with a system from Spanish travel technology firm Amadeus.

Amadeus, which operates global travel booking systems and offers check-in services for airlines, said it suffered a network problem on Thursday which disrupted some of its systems but it had fixed the problem.

A similar incident occurred in April, when computer issues briefly prevented airlines including Lufthansa and Air France-KLM, from boarding passengers. Frankfurt airport operator Fraport said on Twitter that Germany’s largest carrier Lufthansa and partner airlines had been hit by a problem for around 30 minutes in the morning which prevented bags being checked in, but the issue was resolved.

In Washington, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority said Southwest reported a computer issue that caused a few minor delays at Reagan National Airport of up to 16 minutes, but there were no other issues at present.

Reuters reported in 2016 that further outages were likely because major carriers had not invested enough to overhaul reservations systems that used technology dating to the 1960s, citing airline industry and technology experts. (Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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