virgin australia handwritten boarding pass

Sabre outage hits airline reservation systems globally

Many Sabre clients were unable to connect to its airline reservation system for about two hours, causing several airlines to have to manually check in passengers for domestic and international flights.

In some cases, airlines couldn’t tell if passengers had checked in already online, and gate agents had to handwrite boarding passes.

According to a company statement sent to Tnooz:

The systems have been restored and everyone is now able to connect to Sabre. We apologise and regret the inconvenience caused.

As many as 400 airlines were affected for a period of time, including Alaska Airlines, American, Frontier, Jet Blue, LAN, Virgin America, and Virgin Australia.

The system took a siesta around 1:40pm Sydney local time, according to Virgin Australia. According to American Airlines, the outage started at 11:45pm US Eastern time. Monitoring service Flight Radar reported multiple flight delays. Airline websites couldn’t take reservations.

No clear reason has yet been given for the failure.

virgin australia handwritten boarding pass

The crash comes as especially bad timing for Virgin Australia. Because of the outage, it offered compensation for passengers who chose not to show up for flights today during prime afternoon traffic time.

The carrier moved to Sabre’s GDS and its SabreSonic point-of-sale system in January. The glitch came a day after the airline warned it will record a loss of up to $110 million this year, of which it attributed $50 million to revenue lost because of GDS implementation problems. Virgin Australia said it had made the switch as a precaution to replace the Navitaire booking system that once went offline for 11 days.

sabre gds crash virgin australia

NB: Image of handwritten boarding pass courtesy of Paulie Abb.

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Sean O'Neill

About the Writer :: Sean O'Neill

Sean O’Neill had roles as a reporter and editor-in-chief at Tnooz between July 2012 and January 2017.



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  1. Steve Sherlock

    As a former Virgin Australia employee – I can imagine it must be frustrating for the executive, given much of the reason to switch from Navitaire was around reliability. But also (and mainly) due to the belief that the increased GDS connectivity via Sabre would bring greater government and corporate business via TMC’s.

    I think the later has certainly happened though seemingly at the expense of the B2C business, given the regression in web functionality.

    I guess looking objectively, given the Sabre outages and reported $110 million loss for the 12/13 year, it seems neither of the initial objectives are yet to be met.

    I hope they can turn it around, because Virgin Australia is a terrific airline – and provide one of the best customer experiences I’ve experienced around the world with super dedicated people.

    Unfortunately the quality of the actual airline products (i.e. planes, lounges, experience) seem to be exceeding the the currently capabilities of the PSS and distribution platforms.

    • Timothy O'Neil-Dunne

      Insightful comment from someone who used to be on the inside. Like many VA has to compete and build at the same time. Each market needs viable competition. Oz really needs that too with the really high cost per seat mile in the market.


    • Sean O'Neill

      Sean O'Neill

      Excellent insights. Cheers.

  2. Phil Gadzinski

    Again. One would have thought that given the system performance issues in the past enormous steps would be taking to ensure strong BCP and quick failover to backup sites by the service provider – ie Sabre. Also to Virgin – seems like whatever contingency plan in place for these events still doesn’t work effectively – after a few trial runs now! More work required?

    Disclaimer: Although this writer has no shares in Virgin, he is travelling with them next week and dearly hopes the backlog can be cleared by then!


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