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Computer Problems Create Massive Backup Of United Flights At O'Hare

RUPA SHENOY   07/ 2/09 05:15 PM ET   AP

United

CHICAGO — A computer problem temporarily disrupted United Airlines flights at O'Hare International Airport on Thursday, causing long delays and lines for travelers headed out for the Fourth of July holiday weekend.

The outage affected all of United's computers at the airport and also caused about 100 flights to be canceled as of Thursday afternoon, said airline spokeswoman Robin Urbanski.

The problem with the check-in computers ran from 3 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., she said.

At one point, the airline instituted a "ground stop," keeping United flights bound for O'Hare grounded if they hadn't taken off yet, said Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory.

She said the glitch affected the boarding pass system and the computers that tell pilots the number of passengers on board and weight of the plane, which affect how much fuel an aircraft can carry.

"You need that to take off," Isham Cory said.

The ground stop order was lifted shortly before 8 a.m., when the airline began resolving its computer issues, she said.

Because the outage involved United's ticketing system, the airline urged customers to monitor their flight status and check in online before they got to O'Hare, Urbanski said. United employees manually processed customers checking in, and self check-in kiosks were closed, she said.

At the peak of the problem, at least 1,000 passengers stood in slow-moving lines in the O'Hare terminal, and planes lined up on the airport's tarmac as new flights arrived and departing flights were held back.

O'Hare is a United hub, and the problems caused delays at other U.S. airports.

United passengers flying into or out of O'Hare on Thursday were being allowed to change their reservations for free, officials said.

Shahzil Amin said the computer problems caused his flight from Dallas to Orlando via Denver to be delayed for three hours, so the airline rerouted him instead through Chicago.

"I've had a lot of problems today," Amin said.

"I pretty much won't fly United (again)," he said.

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AP Airlines Writer Joshua Freed in Minneapolis and AP Radio Correspondent Matt Small contributed to this report.

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Filed by Ben Goldberger  |