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Australia's Virgin Blue Has Yet Another Check-in Problem

Reservation system goes down again for two hours?

1 min read
Australia's Virgin Blue Has Yet Another Check-in Problem

Australian discount airline Virgin Blue's automated reservation and baggage system crashed yet again today, forcing airline staff to revert to manual operations. This probably didn't cause Virgin Blue's staff too much trouble, since this is, I believe, the fourth outage of its "new" reservation system since it became operational last June.

You may remember that in September of 2010, a major reservation system glitch caused havoc to 50,000 Virgin Blue customers for over a week and a half.

According to this report in the Sydney Morning Herald, Virgin Blue customers started sending Twitter messages complaining about check-in problems "in Sydney Airport at 4.43pm, at Hobart airport at 4.46pm, at Canberra at 5.01pm, at Melbourne airport at 5.07pm and at Brisbane at 5.21pm."

How long the outage lasted is in dispute. A story at the Herald Sun quotes a Virgin Blue spokesperson downplaying the interruption, saying that it was "not a major worry."  The spokesperson claimed that the outage only lasted a few minutes, and that it was caused by an upgrade to Virgin Blue's network.

This explanation doesn't seem entirely plausible for a couple of reasons. This article in the Courier Mail, for example, states that Virgin Blue customers were complaining for at least an hour and forty minutes about the outage via Twitter. The article also says that SkyNews reported the outage as lasting two hours.

Another reason I am a bit skeptical of the Virgin Blue's explanation is that I find it hard to believe that Virgin Blue would do a network upgrade during the peak of the afternoon travel period instead of waiting to do so overnight.

I'll update this post if any more information is forthcoming from Virgin, which I am quite sure would like this latest incident quickly slip down the old memory hole.

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Top Tech 2022: A Special Report

Preview two dozen exciting technical developments that are in the pipeline for the coming year

1 min read
Photo of the lower part of a rocket in an engineering bay.

NASA’s Space Launch System will carry Orion to the moon.

Frank Michaux/NASA

At the start of each year, IEEE Spectrum attempts to predict the future. It can be tricky, but we do our best, filling the January issue with a couple of dozen reports, short and long, about developments the editors expect to make news in the coming year.

This isn’t hard to do when the project has been in the works for a long time and is progressing on schedule—the coming first flight of NASA’s Space Launch System, for example. For other stories, we must go farther out on a limb. A case in point: the description of a hardware wallet for Bitcoin that the company formerly known as Square (which recently changed its name to Block) is developing but won’t officially comment on. One thing we can predict with confidence, though, is that Spectrum readers, familiar with the vicissitudes of technical development work, will understand if some of these projects don’t, in fact, pan out. That’s still okay.

Engineering, like life, is as much about the journey as the destination.

See all stories from our Top Tech 2022 Special Report

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