The crash of the Amadeus ALTEA airline hosting system, the large platform used by hundreds of airlines for passenger check-in and ground control, hit Qantas and¬†Virgin Australia¬†on Sunday 1 July, just at the moment when many feared the Leap Second bug might make its mark felt across the digital world.
It wasn’t a coincidence. And now Amadeus has admitted it got caught out by the bug.
But what is the so-called Leap Second, and why is it buggy?
The rather grandly titled¬†International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service¬†has the monumental responsibility of deciding when to insert a single second into the daily clock to ensure the rotation of the earth on its axis keeps in line with solar time.
Might sound a bit crazy to anyone out of physics and astronomy, but it’s a vitally important process which happens every few years – the last occasion was at the end of 2008 (generally the additions take place at the strike of midnight on 1 January or 1 July).
But given that so many of the world’s systems and processes are controlled electronically, including airline hosting, adding a second into the so-called digital clock is perhaps not as easy as it sounds.
This is what happened to Amadeus last weekend.
It turns out that some systems running on Linux were hit by a bug triggered by the insertion of the additional second on the clock at the stroke of midnight GMT on Sunday.
An Amadeus official says confirms the incident which took out ALTEA for less than hour was the result of a “Linux bug”.
“We are now investigating how we can enhance our ability to detect and address such bugs in advance.
“We take any systems disruption very seriously, we have always valued our reputation for reliability and we are determined to do everything that is appropriate to provide a reliable service in future.”