Anyone flying United Airlines on Tuesday, September 5, around midday (Central Daylight Time), may have gotten a bit of a rude awakening. United requested a brief halt on all flight departures nationwide on Tuesday, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) confirmed in a statement. The pause in departures was later lifted.
“We are experiencing a systemwide technology issue and are holding all aircraft at their departure airports,” United said in a statement sent to AFAR. “Flights that are already airborne are continuing to their destination as planned. We’re currently investigating and will share more information as it becomes available.”
Very shortly after releasing the statement, United said that it had identified “a fix” for the technology issue and that its flights had resumed.
“We’re working with impacted customers to help them reach their destinations as soon as possible,” United stated.
As of press time, 350 United flights were experiencing delays, a number that appeared to be ticking upward, according to data provided by flight-tracking service FlightAware. Only a handful of United flights had been canceled entirely on Tuesday as of publishing.
This is the third time in less than a year that a technical glitch has disrupted air travel on a large scale in the United States. The biggest snafu was during the 2022 holiday season, when Southwest Airlines canceled more than 15,000 flights over the course of a week due to outdated crew-scheduling technology that displaced flight crews after a series of winter storms, essentially shutting down almost all of the carrier’s operations.
Less than a few weeks later, in mid-January, a FAA computer error affecting the agency’s Notice to Air Missions (NOTAMs) system briefly brought flights across the U.S. to a standstill.
Following those technical mishaps, AFAR’s special air correspondent Barbara Peterson, dug into the seemingly chronic infrastructure issues plaguing the U.S. air travel network. What she found is that the problem is not new and likely isn’t going to go away overnight.
“There’s one underlying cause of all the chaos that has long resisted a quick fix—aging and bug-prone technology,” Peterson wrote in her story.
United has yet to reveal the precise details on what went wrong. Until then, air travelers should always be armed with information in case they encounter any issues, including knowing how best to track the status of your flight in real time, and how to best avoid flight delays and cancellations (and what to do when delays and cancellations occur).