SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — United Airlines worked late Tuesday afternoon to get its flights running on-time again after a major computer “network outage” halted flights nationwide for about two hours, including grounding departures out of San Francisco International and Mineta-San Jose airports.

Passengers at both airports told KCBS that they were unable to check-in and board their flights after United’s computers went down and SFO spokesman Mike McCarron confirmed: “They couldn’t get anyone onboard those aircraft until the (computer reservation) system was fixed.”

SFO is United’s West Coast hub with 250 to 300 flights per day, amounting to about 40 percent of all flights at the airport; SJC has just 10 United flights daily, one of which had departed before the computer glitch happened.

At SFO’s Terminal 3, delays and long lines were expected to last throughout the evening in order to clear out the backlog of passengers who were inconvenienced.

During the shutdown, McCarron said, the airport had “a lobby full of people who could who could not check in and planes at the gate and planes coming in that we didn’t have gates for.”

The Associated Press reported that United departing flights to its hubs in San Francisco and Newark, N.J., were held at their origins until around 3 p.m. Pacific Time. At some airports across the country, boarding passes were reportedly being hand-written by United personnel. The airline’s website was also down during the computer outage.

Airline spokespeople said the cause of the outage was not immediately known, but they apologized for the disruption and indicated that United would not charge the usual change fees for passengers on affected flights who wanted to cancel or rebook their tickets.

United Continental Holdings Inc. has been struggling with computer issues ever since it combined some of its major computer systems in March following the 2010 merger of United and Continental. Passengers on Tuesday afternoon lit up social media accounts with complaints about the ongoing outages.

All the airlines rely on complex computer software systems to know who is filling the seats on its planes, how many empty seats are available and to print boarding passes upon passenger check-ins.

(Copyright 2012 CBS San Francisco. All rights reserved.)


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