- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 21, 2007

CHICAGO (AP) — A computer malfunction at United Airlines halted all departures for two hours yesterday, forcing the delay or cancellation of nearly 300 flights, the carrier said.

Spokeswoman Robin Urbanski said the airline did not know the cause of the problem, which affected the systems United uses to dispatch flights for departure.

The outage lasted from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Central Daylight Time, when departures were able to resume after the computer functions returned.

United said about 268 domestic and international flights were delayed for an average 1½ hours and 24 domestic flights were canceled.

The airline, a unit of Chicago-based UAL Corp., offers about 3,600 flights daily.

“We are very sorry for the inconvenience today’s computer outage caused our customers,” Miss Urbanski said yesterday afternoon. “We continue to work hard to resume operations by tomorrow morning and kindly ask for our customers’ patience.”

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Allen Kenitzer in Seattle confirmed that all United flights had been grounded because of the computer problem.

At Chicago O’Hare International Airport, United’s inbound and outbound flights were delayed between one and two hours and 29 United flights had been canceled, said spokeswoman Wendy Abrams.

No other airlines were affected.

Jocelyn Ashberg, from Cape Town, South Africa, said she flew from Washington, D.C., to Chicago yesterday, only to sit on the tarmac at O’Hare for 1½ hours after the plane landed.

“We rushed to get the plane in Washington because we were late coming in because we were delayed in Johannesburg,” Miss Ashberg said. “Then when we got to Chicago we just had to sit and sit and sit because nobody could tell us how long it was going to be … we just had to sit like sardines in a can.”

Michael McCarron, director of community affairs for San Francisco International Airport, said about a dozen United flights were affected at the airport yesterday morning before service resumed.

“Everything is back to normal right now,” he said.

United is the airport’s largest carrier.

The airline’s hubs are O’Hare, Washington Dulles International and airports in Denver, Los Angeles and San Francisco.