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Originally published April 16, 2013 at 6:11 PM | Page modified April 17, 2013 at 6:46 AM

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Hundreds of American Airlines flights canceled after computer outage

Problems with American Airline’s reservations, ticket booking and check-in computer systems forced the carrier to ground flights for several hours Tuesday.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram

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FORT WORTH, Texas — Hundreds of flights were canceled or delayed by American Airlines nationwide Tuesday after a computer-system outage prevented the carrier from checking in passengers.

Flight-tracking website FlightStats.com showed 389 American Airlines flights and 291 American Eagle flights were canceled by early evening. Delays affected an additional 452 American Airlines flights and 368 American Eagle flights.

Most of the cancellations and delays were at Dallas/Fort Worth and Chicago O’Hare airports, two of American’s major hubs.

Problems with the reservations, ticket booking and check-in computer systems started in late morning and forced the Fort Worth-based carrier to ground flights for several hours as it worked to fix the problem.

At 4:30 p.m. EDT, American said its systems were back online but that it expected flight delays and cancellations to continue throughout the day.

“We apologize to our customers and our people for this inconvenience,” the airline said in a statement. It noted there was no evidence to link the technical outage with the explosions at the Boston Marathon on Monday.

The carrier offered to change customers’ reservations at no charge if their travel plans are flexible. If not, American said, it would provide full refunds.

But, American said, the computer problems would likely delay changes to current travel plans.

The Federal Aviation Administration issued a ground-stop of all American Airlines and American Eagle flights across the nation at the request of the carrier Tuesday.

Nancy St. Pierre, a spokeswoman for reservation-manager Sabre, said there were “no issues” from that company’s system but that there was a connectivity problem, which Sabre does not manage for American.

At airports, customers whose flights were canceled couldn’t rebook on a later flight. Passengers were stuck in long lines or killed time in gate areas. They described frustration at the lack of information.

“Tensions are high. A lot of people are getting mad. I’ve seen several yelling at the American agents,” said Julie Burch, who was stuck at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport waiting for a flight to Denver. “Nobody can tell us anything.”

Terry Anzur, a TV news consultant from Los Angeles who was also stranded in Dallas, said gate employees were doing everything the old-fashioned, manual way because their computers were useless.

“No one at the counter can do anything. They can’t check people in,” Anzur said. “The airline is at a dead halt.”

American’s problems were reminiscent of what United Airlines passengers endured for several days last year. After merging with Continental, United experienced computer glitches in the combined reservation system.

On one day in August, 580 United flights were delayed, and United’s website was shut down for two hours. Another outage in November delayed 636 flights.

United’s technology glitches arose after a merger, but American’s headache occurred as parent company AMR. seeks government approval to merge with US Airways Group. The merger would let American leapfrog United and become the world’s biggest airline.

The combined American-US Airways plans to use the American system that broke Tuesday.

Material from The Associated Press is used in this report.

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