American, Southwest, United, JetBlue, and Alaska Airlines, along with smaller regional carriers, were forced to ground flights across the United States this morning after a computer system error that affected many U.S. airlines.

The apparent problem, several airlines said, stemmed from a shared system that many airlines use -- rather than any kind of simultaneous problem encountered by multiple airlines on their individually operated computer systems. 

Airline spokespeople at JetBlue and American Airlines both told me this morning that they put the blame on a system run by a company called Aerodata.  

A Federal Aviation Administration official also told The Washington Post that the Aeroplan system tracks "weight and balance of a plane," and is also "used in flight planning."

While it appears that most if not all of the flights are now cleared, and the problem resolved, airlines said they expected delays would likely reverberate across their schedules today.

So if you're flying anywhere in the United States today on a U.S. carrier, it would be a good idea to check your flight's status before heading to the airport.

Earlier, Southwest had said it grounded all fights across the United States for about 40 minutes Monday morning. 

"We're working with customers on any impacts to their travel plans and we appreciate their understanding as we place nothing higher than the safe operation of every flight," a spokesman said.

At Delta, it appeared the problem might have been confined largely to regional airlines operating as Delta Connection, although a spokesperson advised via USA Today, " If you're on a flight departing soon, please check the status of your flight via the Fly Delta Mobile App or Delta.com."

Some reports said that JetBlue was most heavily affected, and as of about 8:30 this morning, the company told me in an email that it was still experiencing delays. At one point, it appeared the airline had grounded all flights due to the issue.

It appears the computer problem has been resolved as of about 9:30 a.m., but airlines expected some residual delays throughout the day as they work to get back on schedule. 

United Airlines said about 150 of its flights were affected Monday morning. 

"Some of our regional carriers experienced an issue with a flight planning program this morning that impacted operations, resulting in delays for select United Express flights. Our team worked quickly with our partners to resolve the issue," a spokeswoman for United told me.

Alaska Airlines also reportedly had delays, but the company did not respond to my request for comment this morning.

Earlier reports -- for example when the FAA reported via Twitter at about 7:42 a.m. simply that "several U.S. airlines" were "experiencing computer issues this morning" -- led to some concerns that the problems might have been happening simultaneously on each airline's separate systems.

While there's no word on what caused the Aerodata issue, the good news here seems to be that there's nothing like a concerted attack on multiple airlines' systems--along with the fact that the airlines apparently responded quickly, and were able to resolve it all.

Published on: Apr 1, 2019
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