The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

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.

The Conversation (0)
Two men fix metal rods to a gold-foiled satellite component in a warehouse/clean room environment

Technicians at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems facilities in Redondo Beach, Calif., work on a mockup of the JWST spacecraft bus—home of the observatory’s power, flight, data, and communications systems.


For a deep dive into the engineering behind the James Webb Space Telescope, see our collection of posts here.

When the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) reveals its first images on 12 July, they will be the by-product of carefully crafted mirrors and scientific instruments. But all of its data-collecting prowess would be moot without the spacecraft’s communications subsystem.

The Webb’s comms aren’t flashy. Rather, the data and communication systems are designed to be incredibly, unquestionably dependable and reliable. And while some aspects of them are relatively new—it’s the first mission to use Ka-band frequencies for such high data rates so far from Earth, for example—above all else, JWST’s comms provide the foundation upon which JWST’s scientific endeavors sit.

Keep Reading ↓Show less