FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – A computer problem created a backup at 11:30 Tuesday morning of American Airlines planes at DFW International Airport and, every U.S. airport where American flies. The technical issues, that resulted in a “system-wide ground delay” across the country, weren’t resolved for nearly four hours.

The airline said late Tuesday night that a software problem affected its primary and backup computer reservation systems.  The airline was reportedly unable to receive flight plans and performance data, and could not account for who was boarding each plane.

David Magana, spokesman for DFW International Airport, said, “If you can’t check people in, you can’t create manifests and people can’t leave. So, it becomes a situation that affects their system nationwide.”

Some computers wouldn’t print boarding passes. Others wouldn’t print luggage tags.

Bruce White, from Dallas, said, “Since I didn’t have a boarding pass, I couldn’t get on the plane. I’m kind of stuck right now, until the system comes back up.”

“It’s very crazy. I thought it might’ve been something tied to what happened yesterday. But, it’s not. It’s a glitch in their system,” he added.

More than 200 incoming and 200 outgoing flights were cancelled until the problem was fixed.

American posted a video on YouTube to apologize for the shutdown.   “We’re responsible for getting you to business meetings, vacations and to see your family and friends. That’s a reponsilbilty we take very seriously, and we don’t like to let you down,” said American CEO Tom Horton, in the taped message.

An American Airlines spokesperson confirmed that the computer system was fully restored as of 3:30 p.m. Now the airline is dealing with the delays and cancellations that resulted from the ground stoppage.

Audrey Tavener, traveling from Los Angeles, said, “It’s really chaotic. There’s people milling everywhere.”

Hundreds of people stood in lines to re-book their flights at the reservation desks.

Lisa Underwood, traveling from Ohio, said, “I’m waiting for them to say the system is up. We’ve been in line for an hour and a half now.”

American is offering the following options for customers:

  • If a customer must travel today and is already at the airport, they can rebook on another airline by visiting an American Airlines agent or by going to the other airline’s ticket counter with their electronic ticket number.
  • If a customer must travel today and is not yet at the airport, they can rebook through American Airlines reservations or through another carrier and American will honor the fare difference.
  • If a customer chooses not to travel today, there will be no charge for reservation changes or a full refund will be provided.
  • In addition to not being able to make reservations on American or rebook cancelled flights, the computer problems left the airline unable to retrieve the flight data that must be linked to each aircraft before takeoff. The airline’s computing system couldn’t communicate that information and that meant planes could not leave airports.

“We apologize to our customers for any inconvenience,” airline spokeswoman Andrea Huguely told CBS 11 News.

Chopper 11 was over the airport Tuesday afternoon and spotted dozens of American Airlines jets lined up at the gates. Sources said that arrivals were landing at the airport as scheduled, but no flights were able to depart. This created a huge backup at airports nationwide, and especially here in North Texas since DFW Airport is a primary hub for American Airlines.

Audrey Tavener said, “I think we were coming in early actually. And then, we just stopped on the tarmac. And the pilot said our gate was occupied. It would be 15 minutes. It was a lot longer than that. It was about an hour.”

DFW airport sent three buses to pick up travelers stranded in planes on the tarmac to avoid the three hour federal wait time limit inside the plane.

There has been no official estimate released on the number of people affected by the ground stoppage, but thousands of American passengers were stranded at airports and on airplanes.

DFW Airport announced it plans to keep security checkpoints and concession areas open past normal hours to accommodate passengers who are staying in terminals overnight because of altered flight plans. The airport will also hand out cots, blankets, and toiletry kits.

American says it expects things to operate normally on Wednesday, but acknowledges there could be some additional cancelled flights.

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