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Delta flight cancellations continue into 2nd day as airline recovers from system outage

Travellers on Delta Air Lines endured hundreds more cancelled and delayed flights on Tuesday as the carrier slogged through day two of its recovery from a global computer outage.

Key systems and network equipment did not switch over to backups following power outage

Abby Nass, left, and Cara Martin, right, wait at the Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta, Ga., to find out if their flight to Guatemala is on time or cancelled after Delta Air Lines' computer systems crashed on Monday, grounding flights around the globe. (Tami Chappell/Reuters)

Travellers on Delta Air Lines endured hundreds more cancelled and delayed flights on Tuesday as the carrier slogged through day two of its recovery from a global computer outage.

Delta said it had cancelled about 680 flights as it moved planes and crews to "reset" its operation.

Nearly 1,200 Delta flights had been delayed, according to tracking service FlightStats Inc.

"We are still operating in recovery mode," said Dave Holtz, the airline's senior vice-president of operations.

The disruptions followed about 1,000 cancellations and 2,800 delayed flights on Monday after a power outage at Delta's Atlanta headquarters tripped a meltdown of its booking, communications and other systems.

The airline was back online after a few hours Monday, but the outages were so widespread that it was still dealing with the ripple effects a day later.

More than 1,000 people spent the night at Narita Airport outside Tokyo because of the shutdown. While flights resumed in the morning, Delta spokeswoman Hiroko Okada said more delays were expected.

Delta also extended a travel-waiver policy to help stranded passengers rearrange their travel plans.

The airline posted a video apology by CEO Ed Bastian. And it offered refunds and $200 in travel vouchers to people whose flights were cancelled or delayed at least three hours.

Delta's challenge Tuesday will be to find enough seats on planes during the busy summer vacation season to accommodate the tens of thousands of passengers whose flights were scrubbed.

Airlines have been putting more people in each plane, so when a system of a major carrier crashes, as has happened with others before Delta, finding a new seat for the waylaid becomes more difficult.

Last month, the average Delta flight was 87 per cent full.

Confusion among passengers Monday was compounded as Delta's flight-status updates crashed as well. Instead of staying home or poolside at a hotel until the airline could fix the mess, many passengers learned about the gridlock only after they reached the airport.

They were stuck.

"By the time I showed up at the gate the employees were already disgruntled, and it was really difficult to get anybody to speak to me or get any information," said Ashley Roache, whose flight from Lexington, Kentucky, to New York's LaGuardia Airport was delayed. "The company could have done a better job of explaining ... what was happening."

Passengers wait in front of Delta Air Lines counter at Narita International Airport east of Tokyo, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2016. More than 1,000 people spent the night at the Narita airport because of a computer shutdown that halted Delta Air Lines flights worldwide. (Shizuo Kambayashi/Associated Press)

Delta spokesman Trebor Banstetter said that after the power outage, key systems and network equipment did not switch over to backups. The investigation of the outage is ongoing, but Banstetter said that there is no indication that the problems were caused by a hack or intentional breach of the system.

Georgia Power, which controls the system where the outage began, said it appears that a failure of Delta equipment caused the airline's power disruption. No other customers lost power, a spokesman said.

Airlines depend on huge, overlapping and complicated systems to operate flights, ticketing, boarding, airport kiosks, websites and mobile phone apps. Even brief outages can now snarl traffic and, as the Delta incident shows, those problems can go global in seconds.

Last month, Southwest Airlines cancelled more than 2,000 flights over four days after an outage that it blamed on a faulty network router. United Airlines and American Airlines both suffered outages last year — United has struggled with several meltdowns since combining technology systems with merger partner Continental Airlines.

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