Glitch Strands Thousands of Intl. Passengers at LAX
L.A. INT'L AIRPORT, August 11, 2007 (KABC-TV) (KABC) -- It's a travel nightmare at LAX -- a computer that processes customs information goes down and thousands of people are left waiting on planes and in terminals for hours. The glitch brought incoming and outgoing international flights to a virtual halt.
LAX is the only airport affected by this glitch. The problem has been fixed, but officials tell Eyewitness News that an estimated 8,000 passengers still must pass through customs. They are only managing to process about 1,300 people an hour.
While waiting to catch their flights, passengers lined up outside the Tom Bradley Terminal at LAX. Out on the tarmac, international flights came to a standstill after a customs computer system crashed.
"We sat for three hours on a plane, and then we sat for two more hours in an aisle, and then we sat for another hour in another room," said air traveler Bethany Clayton. "And then we sit in line."
The trouble began before 2 p.m. Homeland Security officials say the fiber optic cables, which support the system used to process passengers coming into and leaving the country, malfunctioned.
"They came over the microphone, and they said that there'd be a little bit of a delay. That little bit of a delay turned into four hours," said air traveler Jeremy Bright. "They had two laptops that were running. So everybody had to go -- I think there were 400 people -- had to go through two laptops."
Once the terminals filled up with stranded passengers, those on incoming international flights were forced to sit and wait on their planes. There were 24 flights parked out on the tarmac. In all, an estimated 8,000 passengers were affected.
"She had a 14 hour flight from Moscow," said one woman who had come to the airport to pick up a passenger stranded aboard one of the flights. "Now she's sitting there for three more hours. They cannot get up and walk around, and it's completely stressful."
Customs officials were finally able to get their computer system back online, but the damage was done.
Those caught in the chaos say it was frustrating.
"You had to be very patient," said one passenger.
"That's enough," said another passenger, clearly exasperated.
International flights continued to land at LAX during the disruption, so even thought the computer system has been restored, the nightmare disruptions for passengers may continue well into Sunday.
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