Delta narrowly avoided a nightmare that is becoming all too common in the airline industry

Delta Air Lines got very lucky this morning.

Even though a computer outage at the airline’s Atlanta headquarters on Monday crippled its global operations for more than six hours, it could have been far worse for the airline and its passengers.

The airline managed to work through its computer issues and get its planes back in the air by 8:40 a.m. eastern time.

The quick fix isolated much of the direct effect of the outage to the relatively calm overnight period and early morning flights without disrupting too much of the Monday morning rush.

In addition, many of the flights affected are of the long-haul international variety which have longer turnaround times — allowing the airline more leeway to reallocate it resources to make those flights work. However, Delta warned that passengers should expect further cancellations and delays throughout the day.

The grounding of Delta’s 800-aeroplane fleet comes less than three weeks after a computer failure forced Southwest Airlines to cancel more than 1,100 flights over a 24-hour span.

Effect on Delta’s business

“The negative effect on revenue will be minimal,” Airways senior business analyst Vinay Bhaskara told Business Insider. That’s even after you factor in how much each flight cancellation will cost Delta.

The failure has, thus far, forced the airline to cancel 451 of the 6,000 flights scheduled for Monday, Delta announced in a statement.

According to Bhaskara, each cancelled domestic flight could cost an airline as much as $17,000 once you factor in the downstream costs resulting from the cascading effects on later operations.

At the same time, the cancellation of an international flight could cost airlines in the neighbourhood of $65,000.

Common in the age of automation

There are still thousands of Delta passengers who have had their travel plans thrown into disarray.

Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian apologised to customers in a video posted to the airline’s Twitter account.

The airline announced that affected passengers will be allowed to rebook their flights free of cost by August 12.

With the increasing level of automation in the airline industry, computer outages have become more and more common.

In January, JetBlue temporarily halted operations across its network because of a power outage at Verizon data center.

American and United have also been forced to temporarily ground its fleets over the past two years because of crippling computer outages.

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