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Southwest Airlines Struggles to Recover From Outage

FILE - Southwest Airlines aircraft are seen in front of the Las Vegas strip in Nevada. Technological problems Wednesday have posed lingering problems.

Southwest Airlines was struggling to recover Friday from a massive computer outage, as several hundred more flights were canceled or delayed around the country for a third straight day.

Airline executives said a router breakdown set off a chain of failures in critical technology systems on Wednesday. Backup systems didn't work as expected, they said.

"Southwest continues to manage through lingering disruptions," Southwest said in a statement emailed to Voice of America on Friday.

It said that as of 10:30 a.m. Central time (3:30 p.m. GMT), roughly 300 Friday flights had been cancelled – primarily because of "displaced flight crews. Our technology systems have been fully restored," it continued.

As of Thursday evening, Southwest already had canceled more than 600 flights and delayed more than 2,200, according to tracking service FlightStats Inc. Those numbers were very similar to Wednesday, when the airline said it canceled nearly 700 flights and FlightStats said 2,100 were delayed.

For hours after the outage started, airline employees had to check in passengers manually and couldn't take new reservations. The company's website crashed. On Thursday, CEO Gary Kelly estimated that Southwest might have lost between $5 million and $10 million in ticket sales because customers couldn't book flights.

“We have significant redundancies built into our mission-critical systems, and those redundancies did not work,'' Kelly told reporters on a conference call. ``We need to understand why, and make sure that that doesn't happen again.''

Record quarterly profits

Southwest has an aging technology infrastructure, but Kelly said the airline has been making “significant investments” to upgrade it. It expects to replace the longstanding reservations system next year – at a cumulative cost of $500 million – and replace other key systems over the next three to five years.

Also Thursday, Southwest Airlines reported record quarterly profits, posting online that it had a net income of $820 million in its second quarter.

Chief Operating Officer Mike Van de Ven said when a router failed Wednesday, it slowed the airline's technology systems so much that other functions weren't usable. He said router failures aren't uncommon, but this outage was unusually severe. It took crews about 12 hours to restore most systems to working order.

When the outage hit, Southwest took the unusual step of briefly holding all departing flights at their gates.

Southwest suffered a similar outage last October, resulting in about 800 delayed flights. It blamed that breakdown on a faulty software application.

VOA News’ Carol Guensburg contributed to this report.