United Airlines says software update caused flight departure ground stop

United Airlines had a temporary ground stop of all of its departing flights
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United Airlines said that a software update caused a ground stop order for all of its departing flights on September 5, 2023.

In an initial statement on X (formerly Twitter), the airline announced that it was “experiencing a systemwide technology issue and are holding all aircraft at their departure airports”.

“Flights that are already airborne are continuing to their destination as planned,” the airline continued.

In a follow-up update some 20 minutes later, the carrier said that the issue had been resolved, and flights had resumed.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Air Traffic Control System Command Center (ATCSCC), United Airlines first requested a ground stop for the airline and its subsidiaries to start at 5:05 pm UTC, citing an “equipment outage”.

The effective time of the initial ground stop was between 4:33 pm and 6:00 pm UTC, later extended until 6:00 pm UTC.

In another ATCSCC Advisory, the airline clarified that mainline and regional operators were unable to contact their dispatch through normal means.

The ground stop order was eventually canceled at 5:45 pm UTC.

“Earlier today a software update caused a widespread slowdown in United’s technology systems,” United Airlines said, adding that it briefly held its aircraft at airports before resuming normal operations at 12:45 pm CT (UTC +5).

In June 2023, the airline also experienced significant flight disruptions at US airports.

Speaking at a Politico event discussing the FAA’s reauthorization act in July 2023, Scott Kirby, the chief executive officer (CEO) of United Airlines, said that the airline needs to be “more conservative” when scheduling flights at Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR).

“Newark has more flights scheduled than the physical infrastructure can handle,” Kirby added. “The FAA, in the past few weeks, has been particularly helpful, responsive, communicative.”

As reported by Reuters, in a memo sent to airline employees, Kirby said that “the FAA failed” the airline when the New York area was hit by severe thunderstorms at the end of June 2023.

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