The Chicago Journal

United Airlines Explains Nationwide Departure Halt Due to Software Glitch

In a recent incident that momentarily disrupted the operations of United Airlines, the nation’s leading carrier, a nationwide halt of departures occurred. It is essential to note that this disturbance, which raised concerns about cybersecurity, was, in fact, caused by a software update glitch. In this comprehensive analysis, we will delve into the specifics of the incident, providing an in-depth understanding of the key points involved.

The Software Update Glitch: A Closer Examination

The heart of the matter lies in a widespread slowdown that afflicted United Airlines’ technology systems. Attributed to a routine software update, this issue prompted alarm but ultimately stood as a testament to the complexities of managing a modern airline. Notably, the incident had no connection to any cybersecurity breach, serving as a reassuring factor for passengers and stakeholders alike.

FAA Involvement and the Ground Stop

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), as the authoritative body overseeing the nation’s airspace, played a pivotal role in orchestrating the response to this situation. Recognizing the gravity of the glitch, United Airlines proactively approached the FAA, seeking a nationwide suspension of its departure operations. It is vital to emphasize that the technical challenge was isolated to United Airlines and its affiliated subsidiaries. This approach was instrumental in safeguarding other carriers from encountering similar disruptions. The ground stop, lasting slightly over an hour, was an essential measure to address the technical hurdles that had surfaced.

Impact on Flight Operations

While the incident did pose challenges, its effect on United Airlines’ overall operations remained relatively contained. As late afternoon descended on the East Coast, a mere seven flights had to be canceled. This figure stands in stark contrast to the airline’s usual average during the bustling Labor Day weekend, where approximately 16 cancellations per day are not uncommon. However, the story shifted when it came to flight delays. More than 350 United Airlines flights experienced delays, accounting for approximately 13% of the carrier’s tightly coordinated schedule. This incident unfolded on a day when numerous holiday vacationers were poised to embark on their journeys back home.

Parallel Incidents and Lessons Learned

This incident prompts a comparison with previous disruptions experienced by the aviation industry. A notable parallel can be drawn to Southwest Airlines’ outage in April, where departing flights were briefly grounded, leading to a ripple effect of delays. Additionally, the FAA itself faced challenges earlier in the year when a safety hazard alert system faltered due to an unfortunate contractor’s error.

Transportation Secretary’s Vigilance

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, renowned for his vigilant oversight of airline operations and issues, voiced his concern regarding the incident. He underscored the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) commitment to ensuring that United Airlines fulfills its obligations to passengers who were affected. It is noteworthy that the FAA, the focal point of this incident, operates under the umbrella of Buttigieg’s Department of Transportation.

Market Reaction and Implications

The ramifications of the ground stop extended beyond the operational realm, reverberating in the financial sector. Chicago-based United Airlines Holdings Inc. saw a 2.5% decline in its shares as news of the disruption emerged.

Takeaway on the United Airlines Problem:

In summation, the recent nationwide halt of departures by United Airlines stemmed from a software glitch initiated by a routine update. The absence of any connection to cybersecurity breaches provided solace to passengers and stakeholders alike. Although the incident resulted in minimal flight cancellations, significant delays were experienced. United Airlines’ proactive engagement with the FAA played a crucial role in mitigating the impact. This incident serves as a poignant reminder of the intricate technological landscape within the aviation industry, emphasizing the need for resilient IT systems.

United Airlines among many set for a good year

United Airlines: Since many prominent companies are experiencing the effects of inflation, profit is difficult to estimate.

Due to the growing need for travel, United Airlines has a great prospect, while other firms are still considering their outlook for 2023.

The news

First-half and fourth-quarter forecasts for the major airline both exceeded Wall Street projections.

The positive news might be attributed to increased prices and surging demand for travel.

Airlines are again profitable due to customer demand for air travel and readiness to pay more.

The cost of building out networks, including personnel, fuel, and other fees, has dramatically decreased due to the increased demand for air travel.

The rise of airlines has also been limited by aircraft backlogs and delays, which has raised ticket costs.


United Airlines earned $843 million on $12.4 billion in revenue in the last quarter of 2022, a 31% rise over the same period in the previous three months.

9% fewer flights were taken, but there were around 14% greater revenues than at the same time in 2019.

Even though unit costs increased by 21% from 2020, the revenue helped the airline make a profit.

Only 2% of United Airlines’ stock price rose during Tuesday’s extended session.

The quarterly update is another optimistic sign that airlines will end the year well, despite the winter storms and delays during the critical holiday travel season.

Other airlines

United, one of many major airlines, is bound for a prosperous year.

Last week, Delta Air Lines’ revenue and earnings exceeded Wall Street’s projections.

Its predicted first-quarter profitability, however, is outweighed by a more considerable expenditure brought on by an unforeseen pilot labor agreement.

American Airlines boosted both its profit and sales forecasts for the fourth quarter.

There will be a report made public on January 26.

Read also: Prices of 2022: the highs and lows

Fourth quarter

Refinitiv combined consensus expectations with seeing how United Airlines performed in the fourth quarter.

  • Adjusted earnings per share: $2.46
  • Total revenue: $12.4 billion

These projections come from Wall Street.

  • Adjusted earnings per share: $2.10
  • Total revenue $12.2 billion

2023 expectations

United Airlines predicts that its revenue from January through March 2023 will increase by 50% compared to the same period last year.

Additionally, the airline projects between 50 cents and $1 in earnings per share for the first quarter.

According to Refinitiv, it exceeds the 25-cent analyst estimate.

Compared to the same period last year, United Airlines anticipates a 20% rise in flight traffic in the first quarter.

The airlines predict a capacity increase in the high teens for the whole year compared to 2022.

As a result of the same unit revenues (revenue per available seat mile) as in 2022, the analysis assumes that the steep price increase may continue to level out when airlines add more flights.

In a presentation to investors, United said that a shortage of pilots, outdated technology, and labor issues would constrain the industry’s capacity.

Staff plans

Even though the aviation industry continues to have a labor shortage brought on by Covid, several airlines have plans to boost the number of pilots and crew members they hire this fiscal year.

United Airlines revealed on Tuesday that the Calibrate apprenticeship program and the United Aviate Academy started in November and early 2022, respectively.

A greatly updated and expanded flight attendant training facility has opened in Houston, according to the airline.

A new labor deal between United and its pilots has not yet been reached.

A proposed salary increase agreement between Delta and the pilots has not been ratified by their union.

United pilot union

United Airlines’ pilots union is preparing to elect a new head after the former one resigned.

CEO Scott Kirby predicts that the election will be concluded this month.

Kirby anticipates that when the new head is selected, negotiations will commence again around February 7.

He insisted that an agreement for a pilot contract ought to be finished right away.

To maintain non-fuel cost above the prior year, United noted in its investor presentation that it anticipated new agreements with pilots, flight attendants, technicians, and airport workers.

According to Scott Kirby, the most recent system breakdown at the Federal Aviation Administration is a case study showing how the industry’s supply constraints are a symptom of a bigger infrastructural problem.

He said that the FAA’s use of space and drones was taxing the resources typically utilized to maintain aviation infrastructure.

“They’ve had to rob Peter to pay Paul,” said Kirby. “They just don’t have enough resources.”

Kirby added that he travels to Washington, DC, twice a month to advocate for increased funding.


United results top estimates a demand remains resilient despite high fares