Sabre Systems IT outage cripples airline operations globally

Virgin Australia, American Airlines, and Alaska Airlines are among the handful of carriers that were forced to cancel or delay flights on Friday after Sabre suffered a global IT outage.

Virgin Australia was among the handful of airlines worldwide whose flights were impacted by a global IT systems outage on Friday afternoon.

The source of the outage was Sabre, a third-party IT system used by the carriers for check-in, boarding, and flight bookings. American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and JetBlue were also impacted.

Virgin Australia was forced to cancel more than 30 flights on Friday, while a "small number" of flights on Saturday were cancelled and delayed as the airline worked to "reposition aircraft and crew across [its] network".

"Sabre, which is a third-party IT system we use for check-in, boarding and flight bookings, is investigating the cause of the outage," Virgin Australia spokesperson said in a statement.

Sabre blamed the outage on its hardware provider, Dell EMC. 

"Dell/EMC has confirmed it experienced a hardware redundancy failure that impacted Sabre's system, including PSS and check-in," Sabre told ZDNet. "The issue has been resolved. Dell/EMC is working to understand why the failure occurred."

The outage was resolved three hours after Virgin Australia first issued its statement on Twitter at 5:20pm AEST that warned of the outage.

"We're pleased to let you know the global system outage has been resolved. To all our guests travelling this evening and ahead of the weekend, thank you for your patience tonight. We're working to get you on your way as soon as possible," Virgin Australia tweeted.

Virgin also issued an apology to impacted customers.

"While it has since been resolved, the impacts on our guests were felt right across our domestic network, and on behalf of Virgin Australia, we apologise for the disruption to their weekend travel plans," the airline's spokesperson said.

"We are working closely with Sabre to ensure that necessary measures are taken to prevent these outages from reoccurring."

Virgin Australia rolled out Sabre to replace the company's previous Navitaire system, which had a history of outages. In 2011, the airline suffered an 11-day outage due to a failure of the Navitaire system. After Virgin threatened legal action, the matter was eventually settled out of court.

Updated 24 May 2021, 11:12am AEST: Sabre comments included.

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