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Sabre Systems IT outage hits global airline operations

Virgin Australia had to cancel over 30 flights over the weekend although it says the issue has now been resolved

Sabre Systems experienced an outage on Friday 21 May that impacted a number of airlines around the world and interrupted their scheduled flights.

Sabre is a third-party IT system used for check-in, boarding and flight bookings. The outage affected global airlines including Virgin Australia, Jet Blue, Alaskan Airlines and American Airlines.

A spokesperson for Virgin Australia confirmed the company had experienced an outage with the Sabre booking system which had resulted in over 30 flights cancelled on Friday and a "small number of flights" cancelled or delayed on Saturday.

Tweets from the airline suggested that the outage affecting Virgin Australia lasted for around three hours.

"While it has since been resolved, the impacts on our guests were felt right across our domestic network, and on behalf of Virgin Australia, we apologise for the disruption to their weekend travel plans.," said the spokesperson.

A JetBlue spokesperson told IT Pro: "JetBlue systems are back online following a Sabre outage impacting multiple airlines. We apologise for any inconvenience this caused." 

American Airlines also confirmed that it had been affected by the outage, but the technical issue has now been resolved.

Moreover, when IT Pro asked the company for comment, Sabre blamed the outage on Dell EMC.

"Dell/EMC has confirmed it experienced a hardware redundancy failure that impacted Sabre's system, including PSS and check-in. The issue has been resolved. Dell/EMC is working to understand why the failure occurred," said the spokesperson.

Dell told IT Pro that system access has now been restored for Sabre and its customers. "Our engineering teams are working together closely to determine root cause," added the spokesperson.

Meanwhile, Air India stated that a cyber attack which took place three months ago on the systems of its data processor has exposed information belonging to around 4.5 million of its customers worldwide.

The breach which affected SITA, the data processor, involved personal data registered over a ten year period which exposed information such as passport information, date of birth and credit card data. The airline is now encouraging passengers to change passwords to ensure the safety of their personal data.

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