Alaska Airlines recovering from computer glitch

DOUG ESSER, Associated Press

SEATTLE -- Alaska Airlines says its computer connections have been restored, and operations are returning to normal at its airport gates.

The Seattle-based airline says passengers can still expect some delays as the system adjusts.

The problem started just before 8 a.m. Monday when the airline lost its connection to the Sabre reservation system because of two cut Sprint fiber optic lines.

Passenger lines grew at Sea-Tac in Seattle and other airports as the airline was unable to put passengers on planes, except by handwritten paperwork.

The airline says the data connection was restored before 1 p.m.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

A computer failure cut off Alaska Airlines' ability to put passengers on planes Monday, delaying flights at all 64 airports it serves across the West Coast and in Mexico and Canada.

The problem was caused by a severed Sprint fiber optic line that cut the Seattle-based airline's connection to its Sabre ticketing system at 7:40 a.m.

Without it, airline workers at ticket counters were checking in passengers and writing by hand. Writing what??

"We're still working on it," airline spokeswoman Marianne Lindsey said. "Right now we continue to manually process passengers as best we can."

The problem led to especially long lines at the airline's Sea-Tac hub. But frustrated travelers also faced lines in Alaska, Oregon and California, Lindsey said. Is this correct?

Officials said technicians were working as fast as possible to fix the problem.

"We're doing everything we can to get back on track," said Alaska Airlines President and CEO Brad Tilden at Sea-Tac Airport during an unrelated announcement with Delta Air Lines about a new route.

The problem was caused by a combination of two fiber optic cuts in the Sprint system, a spokeswoman said

One occurred at a construction site along railroad tracks between Chicago and Milwaukee and the other was somewhere between Portland and Seattle, said Sprint spokeswoman Crystal Davis in Reston, Va.

"Typically if there's just one cut traffic reroutes automatically," she said. "Because there were two cuts with hours of each other, it caused this disruption."

Davis hoped one fiber optic line would be fixed by 3 p.m. Pacific, which should put the airline back in operation.

The airline told waiting passengers at Sea-Tac they could re-book later at no charge.

About half the flights at Sea-Tac are Alaska Airlines or its sister airline, Horizon Air.

No other airlines or any airplanes at Sea-Tac were affected by the problem, said airport spokesman Perry Cooper. But lines were out the door in the Alaska part of the terminal.

Seattle-based Alaska Airlines is the seventh-largest U.S. airline based on passenger traffic and is the dominant U.S. West Coast air carrier. It has an average of 436 flights a day at 64 destinations.

Alaska and Horizon Air are owned by Alaska Air Group.