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United faults hardware failure for communication breakdown

Travelers wait line check for their flights United Airlines check-areO'Hare Airport Tuesday August 28 2012 Chicago. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

Travelers wait in line to check in for their flights at the United Airlines check-in area at O'Hare Airport Tuesday, August 28, 2012, in Chicago. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

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Updated: October 1, 2012 5:14PM

United Airlines said its operations are back to normal Wednesday after Tuesday’s network outage that caused 580 delays and nine cancellations.

The outage was caused when a piece of hardware in one of the company’s data centers failed and disabled communications with United’s hubs and website, United spokesman Charles Hobart said Wednesday.

“We have fully redundant systems and we are working with the manufacturers to determine why the backup equipment did not work as it was supposed to,” Hobart said.

Tuesday’s outage began about 2 p.m. and lasted two hours, the company said. Its passenger reservation system and website stopped working, although the outage didn’t affect planes in flight.

The problem was severe enough that the airline asked the Federal Aviation Administration to issue “groud-stops” to prevent flights from taking off to some of its hub airports, including San Francisco, Newark and Houston. The FAA lifted the ground-stops at 4:30 p.m Tuesday so planes could take off.

United has been struggling with technology problems since March, when it switched to a passenger information computer system that was previously used by Continental.

United and Continental merged in 2010. That system, called “Shares,” has needed extensive reworking since March to make it easier for workers to use.

A United spokesman said that Tuesday’s problems were not caused by Shares.

United experienced a similar network outage in June 2011.

Contributing: AP

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