How One Router Grounded an Entire Airline

Tech problems always seem to happen at the worst time.  Like when my harddrive failed in law school before a final paper was due.  Or when my phone stopped working and I needed to order an Uber.

But the consequences of these events–a lower class score and having to walk for a while to find a cab–are not too bad.

A minor hardware problem resulted in major problems for Southwest Airlines.

southwest airlines

A single router failed.  Which doesn’t seem like that big of a deal until you look at the specific circumstances.

From the Dallas Morning News:

The router, like the thousands of others housed there, had a backup system in place. But according to the company’s CEO Gary Kelly, the unique way the router failed, what he described as a “partial failure,” didn’t signal the backup that it was needed, allowing a singular disruption to metastasize into a crisis.

Kelly compared the failure to a once in a thousand year flood.

Over the next four days, 2,300 flights were canceled, and hundreds of thousands of customers were impacted, ultimately costing the airline tens of millions of dollars.

The article goes pretty deep into the events and the consequences.  Overall, it’s a crazy situation.

It’s amazing how seemingly small issues can cause huge problems.  In 1977, the power for Con Ed in NYC was shut down for 25 hours when an operator flipped a switch out of order.

And in 1980, one faulty circuit made it look like the USA was under attack.

In Southwest’s case, this router caused millions of dollars in damage.  I could just see the CEO muttering, I knew we should have gotten the more expensive model.

About Jeanne Marie Hoffman

Former bartender, still a geek. One equal part each cookies, liberty, football, music, travel, libations. Stir vigorously. +Jeanne Marie Hoffman Jeanne on Twitter

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