Technical Problem Prompted Hundreds Of SkyWest Cancellations

US regional airline SkyWest Airlines canceled around 700 flights on Thursday, October 21st. This significant disruption came at short notice following internal computer issues. Although issues were solved during the day, disruption and cancellations have continued into the next day.

SkyWest CRJ700
SkyWest operates a fleet of 570 Bombardier and Embraer aircraft, largely under contract with other US airlines. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Significant SkyWest cancellations

Passengers across the US were impacted by hundreds of flight cancellations on October 21st when IT systems failed at SkyWest Airlines. This affected flights operated by United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, and Alaska Airlines – as SkyWest operates flights in partnership with them.

According to the flight-tracking website FlightAware, a total of 663 flights were canceled on routes across the country. A further 510 flights were delayed. IT outages were experienced for around five hours, and flights had begun to resume by Thursday evening. But the effects were still being felt on Friday, with a further 297 cancellations being reported for the day as of 08:30 EST.

Twitter user Ryan Ewing showed the impact well with a comparison of flight activity compared to the same period the day before:

Effecting several airlines

SkyWest is a US regional airline that operates flights through partnerships with United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, and Alaska Airlines. As such, these cancellations impacted passengers with all these airlines – whether or not they knew the flight was operated by SkyWest.

SkyWest is the largest such regional airline in the US. It operates a fleet of 570 aircraft (with 477 aircraft currently active), according to data from ch-aviation.com. This fleet is made up entirely of regional Bombardier and Embraer aircraft. It operates 201 Embraer ERJ 170 and 184 Bombardier CRJ200ER aircraft as the largest parts of its fleet. Most of these are operated branded and painted in other airlines livery.

SkyWest ERK175
Most of SkyWest’s aircraft operate for other airlines – such as this ERJ 175 with Delta Air Lines. Photo: Adam Moreira via Wikimedia

Blamed on IT issues

The problems were blamed on internal server issues. SkyWest released the following statement explaining the cancellations:

“SkyWest experienced an internal technical issue resulting in approximately 700 flight cancellations before the issue was resolved Thursday evening. We apologize to customers for the inconvenience; we are working to minimize the impact on Friday’s schedule and to return to normal operations as quickly as possible.”

This is, of course, not the first time we have seen IT issues grounding flights. Flight operations are now reliant on the operation of many systems, and manual workarounds take time to implement and struggle to cope with normal volumes.

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Having a good year so far

The issues at SkyWest are an unfortunate turn after a relatively good year so far. In July, the airline reported a healthy profit for the second quarter of 2021, with domestic demand recovering quickly in the US.

SkyWest CRJ Getty
SkyWest turned a profit in the first and second quarters of 2021, whereas many other airlines continue to struggle. Photo: Getty Images

This is good news so far, but the pressure is expected to build, with US airlines moving away from 50-seater aircraft. With a sizeable CRJ200 fleet, it could start to face problems.

Were you affected by SkyWest cancellations yesterday, or are you flying on a SkyWest flight today? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments.

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