SEATAC, Wash. - The computers Alaska Airlines uses to check in passengers began working again just after noon on Monday, hours after a system failure caused long lines of frustrated passengers, flight delays and cancelations.
The computer problem was system-wide for the airline, a major West Coast carrier, and it forced the cancelation of 53 flights in 95 cities Alaska and Horizon serve.
Alaska Airlines put this advisory on its website, offering an apology for the disruption and saying it would waive fees to reschedule flights.
The airline said the problem was caused when a Sprint fiber optic network in the Midwest was cut and Alaska Airlines lost its connection to the Sabre ticketing system.
One Alaska Airlines passenger told KIRO 7 Eyewitness News he hadn't seen such chaos at Sea-Tac since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
"It's been a zoo all morning long," said KIRO 7 Eyewitness News reporter Jeff Dubois. "Tempers are, frankly, reaching a boiling point" among the thousands of people who are stranded or delayed.
Earlier in the day, Alaska Airlines President and CEO Brad Tilden said there might be a partial solution by noon Pacific time and a full resolution by 5 p.m.
"We're doing everything we can to get back on track," Tilden said at Sea-Tac Airport during an unrelated announcement with Delta Air Lines about a new route.
It could only apologize and ask for patience, said spokeswoman Bobbie Egan. An announcement in the Sea-Tac terminal said the airline would check passengers manually. Another announcement said passengers could re-book at no charge.
On its website, Alaska said if passengers missed flights they'd try to get them on the next available one and would also try to book people on other airlines if that was necessary.
The Seattle-based Alaska Airlines is the seventh-largest U.S. airline based on passenger traffic and is the dominant U.S. West Coast air carrier. It has an average of 436 flights a day at 64 destinations.
Alaska and its sister carrier, Horizon Air, are owned by Alaska Air Group.