Computer systems disrupted flights, stocks

Computer systems disrupted flights, stocks
Passengers wait at Honolulu International Airport
Passengers wait at Honolulu International Airport

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - United Airlines and the New York Stock Exchange both say they do not expect further computer trouble and they do not think they were hacked.

The stock exchange blames an internal systems problem and United blames a bad router.

Hundreds of people were late getting to their Hawaii vacations Wednesday night because of the United Airlines system crash, which grounded all United mainline jets for almost two hours.

What the airline called a connectivity problem created a domino effect of delays that lasted for many hours after the networks were back up, affecting 1,200 flights, of which about 60 were canceled. There were about 400 delayed departures just at Chicago O'Hare.

United nonstops to Honolulu from Houston and Chicago both took off about an hour late to accommodate people transferring from flights from farther east that took off late.

The airline blamed the system crash on a bad router degrading connectivity, which explains why both the reservations network and communications from jets were afflicted.

A second outage for the computers at the United Airlines counter at Honolulu International, which happened Wednesday morning after United reported its systems were back up.

That turned out to be caused by something entirely different, an electrical outage in the terminal that was not United's fault, according to an airport official who was in the terminal when it happened.

The unrelated problem was a reminder that in a world that relies on computers, there will sometimes be one than one problem on the same day.

In this case the power outage meant paper boarding passes for the morning eastbound flights to Los Angeles and San Francisco, and a one-hour delay on the flight to Majuro.

Taking stocks down

Some stock traders thought the New York Stock Exchange problem was caused by China – for them it was too much of a coincidence that Wall Street would have major computer issues the same week that Chinese stock exchanges were rocked by selling. But NYSE executives didn't seem to suspect a link.

"The issue we are experiencing is an internal technical issue and is not the result of a cyber breach," the New York Stock Exchange tweeted. "NYSE-listed securities continue to trade unaffected on other market centers." That was true: you could still trade NYSE stocks on other exchanges.

The Wall Street Journal website went down at about 10:45 a.m. EDT, or 4:45 a.m. HST, however, fueling skepticism abut everything being a coincidence. It went back up in less than an hour.

Trading was suspended for about three hours. The Dow closed down 261 points, which represented a loss of less than 1.5% of Big Board value. (Most Hawaii issues lost less.) The broader S&P 500 lost less than 1.7%.

By contrast, the Shanghai Composite Index, peaking above 5,000 in June, is now trading under 3,700.

The United and NYSE problems did not occur simultaneously. Passengers began tweeting about gate delays around 1:30 a.m. HST, or 7:30 a.m. EDT. It was more than two hours before flights resumed. NYSE suspended trading around 5:30 a.m. HST, or 11:30 a.m. EDT.

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