Skip to main content

Update from Bay Area airports after FAA outage grounds flights

Travelers prepare to board their flights while Southwest Airline planes are parked inside Terminal 1 of the Oakland International Airport. | Camille Cohen/The Standard

In a rare and drastic move, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grounded all domestic flights in the U.S. on Wednesday morning because of a computer outage.

At around 5:50 a.m. local time, the agency announced that it had restored its systems and that normal air traffic operations was “resuming gradually.”

The Standard reached out to the three major airports in the Bay Area, asking how the early morning stoppage has affected operations. Here is what they said:

San Francisco International (SFO)

At present, 195 flights at SFO have experienced delays, which is about 20% of all SFO flights.

Delays are averaging 50 minutes at this time. There have also been 22 flight cancellations, which is not abnormal for SFO.

We have no way to break down which delays/cancellations are related to this ground stop or the result of other factors (like today’s weather).

San Jose International (SJC)

Due to the early departure time, the initial impact (from the FAA outage) included only one aircraft that was required to delay departure.

Operations returned to normal around 6:30 a.m., but some airlines have begun reporting delays within their networks.

Ground stops are rare, particularly one that is a nationwide.

Oakland International (OAK)

According to FlightAware, a flight tracking service, there are 79 total delays and 21 cancellations at Oakland International—the majority of which with Southwest Airlines.

READ MORE: Southwest Airlines Melted Down. Now Its Passengers Are Waiting Again—for Reimbursements

A spokesperson for the airport said OAK is seeing “minimal cancellations” and that operations teams are not reporting “unusually long lines” or passenger crowding at this time.

All three airports recommend passengers check their flight status with their airlines before arriving to the airport.

Southwest Airlines canceled nearly 16,000 flights during the holiday season. | Kevin V. Nguyen/The Standard.

What Caused the Outage?

The Biden administration said there was no evidence that the computer outage was caused by a cyberattack, but the president said that he has asked Pete Buttigieg, the transportation secretary, to investigate.

Buttigieg then made a brief appearance on CNN saying: “We’ve made some major gains in terms of accountability for airlines when it comes to their customer service, but we equally have to make sure FAA has the systems, staffing and operations it needs to serve passengers well.”

When asked if FAA’s technology infrastructure is out-of-date, the secretary said: “That is one of the key questions we have to look at based on what we saw overnight.

“What you saw this morning was an act of caution.”