5 years ago

Sabre distances itself as American Airlines weathers storm of systems outage

Sabre has moved to put some space between it and a major systems failure at American Airlines that forced the carrier to ground flights yesterday.

While the carrier initially named the GDS across social media channels saying its “reservation and booking tool Sabre is offline”, it later apologised to Sabre and customers for the confusion, instead blaming its own “ability to access its res system”.

A statement from Sabre says its systems were “operating as normal and have been all day” but that it was ready to help if required.

The GDS and airline have had a shaky relationship in recent months with a long running saga, settled in October, over the airline’s moves to provide flight information direct to travel agents.

No clear reason has yet been given for the systems failure although chairman and chief executive Tom Horton issued an apology from AA’s operations control centre in Dallas yesterday saying the carrier had experienced a “software issue that impacted both our primary and back-up systems”.

Sabre does indeed power the carrier’s reservation system but some elements of it are controlled by third parties including HP.

Here’s the apology from Horton in full:

AA seems at this stage to have weathered the social media storm well with positive comment and praise for its ongoing communication on both Twitter and Facebook as events unfolded yesterday (Tuesday).

But it is somewhat ironic that the outage and subsequent fall-out occurred a day after the carrier’s customer care boss Don Langford hosted a live chat Twitter on how AA is improving the airport experience.

As per much of the sentiment on social media – “things happen you have to roll with the punches”.

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About the Writer :: Linda Fox

Linda Fox is managing editor for Tnooz. For the past decade years she has worked as a freelance journalist across a range of B2B titles including Travolution, ABTA Magazine, Travelmole and the Business Travel Magazine.

In this time she has also undertaken corporate projects for a number of high profile travel technology, travel management and research companies.

Prior to her freelance career she covered hotels and technology news for Travel Trade Gazette for seven years. Linda joined TTG from Caterer & Hotelkeeper where she worked on the features desk for more than five years.



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  1. Ned

    What is going on is that American Airlines has been trying to off load processing from Sabre to midrange systems to cut costs as American is billed by Sabre for each transaction. While one can understand their desire to save a buck they are increasing the risk of outages like the one they just had. Midrange systems are inherently more risk prone than mainframe (TPF) environments. American complains that TPF is too difficult to modify, well there is a reason for that, and some of those reasons make TPF a lot more bullet proof than midrange systems. Yes there are TPF outages but they are rare compared to issues seen in the midrange systems. American needs to focus more on QC and testing of their midrange code if they want to avoid future mishaps

  2. mobileguy

    If your phone is dead it’s not the fault of whom you want to call. I wonder what kind of architecture AA has in place. SABRE itself has always been highly available.

  3. JT

    Your title implies the system provider is simply leaving their customer in the lurch to fight for their own survival. But as the content and the tweets details, both AA and sabre merely clarified that it was not a sabre issue as first thought. Is this a way to sensationalize news or intentionally make system providers look bad?

    • Rufus

      I agree.

    • Linda Fox

      Thanks JT – good point – think there would be a lot of people out there assuming Sabre’s involvement so implication in title is more to move away from that


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