August 9, 2008

Baggage System Failure Delays JFK Flights

NEW YORK - A software glitch crippled the baggage handling system in an American Airlines terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Wednesday, delaying some flights and causing a luggage pileup at ticket counters.

The malfunction created big problems throughout the day for passengers flying out of Terminal 8, one of the newer buildings at JFK.

Thousands of customers had to leave their luggage behind and hope it would be delivered later.

The breakdown was galling to some passengers already steamed over the airline's recent decision to start charging fees for each checked bag on flights within the U.S. and Canada.

"I'm just not happy. I think it's crazy," said Mike Howell, who was en route to San Diego. "If they do charge people $15 per bag, they should get it right."

The problem developed about 4:45 a.m., when a piece of software failed in the computer that reads the bar code on each piece of tagged luggage, and then whisks the bag via conveyor belt to the proper gate.

With the automated system out of service, airline employees were forced to sort each bag by hand. They quickly became overwhelmed by the task.

The airline tried delaying flights for 60 to 90 minutes, hoping that would be enough extra time to get the bags loaded, but lots of luggage still did not make it aboard.

American gave passengers the choice of either waiting out the problem, or flying on and having the bags delivered later.

"Until then, we appreciate our customers' patience as we work through this issue," airline spokesman Tim Wagner said.

Mr. Wagner could offer no immediate estimate on how long it might take the airline to sort through the backlog and get each bag to its proper destination.

Originally published by Associated Press.

(c) 2008 Augusta Chronicle, The. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.