Hackers Have Affected US Airline Operations By Blocking A Pipeline

As the Colonial Pipeline remains shut following last week’s malware cyberattack, fuel shortages across the East Coast are beginning to impact US airline operations. The first carrier to have altered schedules is American Airlines. Meanwhile, others say that if the jet fuel supply network is not brought back online by the weekend, adjustments may need to be made.

American Airlines 777
Two American Airlines long-haul routes out of CLT will need to make extra stops throughout the week. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Half of East Coast supply affected

The Colonial Pipeline carries almost half of the gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel for the East Coast through a 5,500-mile system from Texas to New Jersey. On Friday, a ransomware attack caused the company to shut down its entire network.

The cyberattack appears to have been engineered by an Eastern European-based group calling itself DarkSide, a reference that could be drawn either from Star Wars or a play on the name of one of the supervillains of DC Comics.

Colonial says that most of the halted service should be restored by the end of the week. In the meantime, however, some airlines are forced to find ways to deal with issues arising from the supply shortage.

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Extra stops for long-haul flights

American Airlines announced Monday it would be adding refueling stops to two of its long-haul routes out of Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT), North Carolina, currently the carrier’s second-largest hub.

Normally a nonstop service, flights to Honolulu, Hawaii, will stop at Dallas Fort-Worth, Texas, where fuel supply has not been disrupted. Passengers will change flights and continue on one of the airline’s Boeing 777-300s.

American Boeing 777
The two affected departures are expected to return to normal by Friday. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

A transatlantic flight from CLT to London Heathrow will also stop in Boston for additional fuel. A spokesperson for the airline told Simple Flying that the flights are currently expected to return to their regular schedule by May 15th and shared the following statement,

“Currently, we are experiencing minimal operational impact to our overall flight schedule due to the fuel supply shortage on the East Coast — with two daily long-haul flights out of Charlotte (CLT) impacted as a result. We are closely monitoring the situation and working around the clock to ensure that we have an adequate supply of fuel across our network.”

Meanwhile, according to CNBC, a person familiar with the matter says that American is also considering trucking in fuel to airports affected by the shortage.

Hackers Have Affected US Airline Operations By Blocking A Pipeline
Southwest Airlines has been flying additional fuel on its jets to airports affected by the shortage. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

Flying in fuel

On the other hand, Southwest Airlines is using its fleet to fly additional fuel to airports to supplement the local supply. Other than that, the all-Boeing budget airline said there were no interruptions to its operations. United Airlines is also yet to see any impact from the outage but says it is working with airports to understand the extent of potential effects.

A spokesperson for Delta Air Lines shared with The Points Guy that if the supply is turned back on by the weekend, as Colonial Pipeline currently estimates, no mitigating measures would be necessary. However, should the shortage last longer, potential adjustments would need to be made.

What do you think would happen if the fuel network is not back online by the weekend? Leave a comment below and let us know.