Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Malfunctioning computer systems caused American Airlines to cancel approximately 700 flights this afternoon and delay many more. It is not yet clear from reports whether or not the outage has caused any violations of the DOT's new tarmac delay rules. It is interesting to speculate about what the consequences of such an outage would be under the EU's passenger rights regime. Under such a system American Airlines would potentially face a staggering number of compensation claims as a result of today's events.Would a computer outage of this magnitude constitute "extraordinary circumstances"? This certainly isn't the type of problem associated with routine maintenance or the normal exercise of the air carrier. Conversely, can the functioning of an airline's computer systems be fairly characterized as a circumstance beyond the carrier's actual control? Fortunately for American that is one problem it does not have to worry about today.