Technical malfunctions at the major airlines seem to be growing in frequency, as this week saw a computer glitch at United lead to major disruptions. Specifically, the culprit was a computer system that's supposed to calculate the weight of each flight before takeoff (via Today in the Sky). Once it went down, operations ground to a halt, per FAA regulations. It didn't help that the airline's entire computer system was completely centralized, as that prevented it from failing at all elegantly. Problems such as this one are also exacerbated by the lack of slack in the system right now, which guarantees that any mishap will lead to a catastrophic chain reaction. Between these two things, brittle IT systems and a shortage of good infrastructure, it seems increasingly likely that flying will remain painful for some time.
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