Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-800 ready to go.

Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-800 ready to go.

Sometimes when things go wrong, it is an opportunity to show what you are made of. On Saturday, Alaska Airlines computer system, used to plan flights, went offline due to a blown transformer. It took over 24 hours to get the system fully running again and there are still passengers who are trying to get to their destination.

From the media’s perspective, Alaska was on their game. During the outtage they posted four different press releases, allowing the media to update passengers. When this sort of thing happens with most other airlines, the media is lucky to get one press release after everything is said and done.

For passengers, both Alaska and Horizon effectively used their social media outlets to not only keep customers informed, but to apologize for the inconvenience. Alaska alone had about 25 tweets about the outage, either providing updates or talking directly to customers who needed assistance. Alaska Air President Brad Tilden and Horizon Air President Glenn Johnson also made a video apologizing for the delay, something that I have never seen an airline do, especially in the middle of the situation.

Now realize, this is all going on over the weekend. All these airline folks were working diligently to get the system back up and keep their customers informed. For me, that is true dedication.

Most airlines are too afraid to have such a public voice when something goes wrong. It takes a risk to be so public when things go wrong, but I think it seperates the good airlines from the great. Even though the computer crash only affected 18% of their flights, it is still a huge impact. Alaska did have to cancel 150 flights, affecting 12,000 passengers. Sure, for many passengers this outreach didn’t mean much help them feel better about not seeing grandma, but just like every other industry out there, airlines are prone to things going wrong. The airline business is extremely complicated and this just goes to show how something relatively minor can have such a large impact.

Cheers to Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air for being so open with the issues and getting them solved.

Alaska gets more kudos from Dan Webb via his blog Things in the Sky Blog and Brett Snyder on


EDITOR-IN-CHIEF & FOUNDER - SEATTLE, WA. David has written, consulted, and presented on multiple topics relating to airlines and travel since 2008. He has been quoted and written for a number of news organizations, including BBC, CNN, NBC News, Bloomberg, and others. He is passionate about sharing the complexities, the benefits, and the fun stuff of the airline business. Email me:
Photo of Airbus A350 XWB First Landing Gear Installed

I did my best. Three hours late. Full. But it worked. I think it was my blue polyester that did it! Appreciate your confidence.

I think this shows some shortsided thinking on the side of Alaska Airlines. Do they not have an alternate Data Center that they can run their systems from? Have they not learned from 9-11, and most recently the earthquakes and devastating Tsunami in Japan that there is the possibility of losing a whole data center. What would happen to Alaska Airlines business if they lost a key data center. I think this shows they are not prepared. Hopefully this is a wakeup call they need to move forward and invest in the people and systems needed to be fully redundant.

I think they were actually in progress of making a back up system when this happened.


Hey David,

The point I am trying to make is they shouldn’t be just making a backup of their system.. it should be there already. They should be able to run from either site at any time. This shows they don’t have that capability. Hopefully this gives them the wakeup call to make that happen.

This shows they don”t have that capability. Hopefully this gives them the wakeup call to make that happen.


Would love to see the likes of Qantas and Virgin Blue in Australia do the same. The last 2 times Virgin Blues system has gone down, it’s always someone else’s fault with no real communication to the passengers. Oh well…

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