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National Post Coverage of how AC handled the "Blackout"

National Post Coverage of how AC handled the "Blackout"

Old Aug 16, 03, 9:44 pm
  #1  
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National Post Coverage of how AC handled the "Blackout"

Outage another blow for Air Canada

Angry passengers stranded at Pearson
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Old Aug 16, 03, 10:59 pm
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Boy, I don't know [shaking head]....

One has to sympathize with AC for disasters outside of their control but with the recent aeroplan.com screw-up and the back-up power supply at their operations center not working this weekend I wonder if management really knows what they are doing.

Does AC ever test this stuff? Do they have any kind of process in plan to manage IT and infrastructure change? Why have business continuity plans if they don't work?

Feels like the Keystone Cops.


[This message has been edited by ACORD (edited 08-16-2003).]
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Old Aug 17, 03, 2:38 am
  #3  
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Everyday it seems that AC is bringing itself one step closer to liquidation.

How many days are left until AC stops flying and liquidates?
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Old Aug 17, 03, 5:31 am
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I guess the question is pretty simple on this one...

When should AC shut down the operations centre to do full scale back-up power testing? There are probably slow periods but ultimately some passenger will be affected and angry none the less...

I think AC should be cut some slack... It would appear that they are trying their best to get back on track and as a passenger, I can't ask them for anything more...

B
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Old Aug 17, 03, 7:14 am
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<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by cslusarc:
Everyday it seems that AC is bringing itself one step closer to liquidation.

How many days are left until AC stops flying and liquidates?
</font>

AC will be very healthy in about 60 days;but if you want to start a WS site go for it.
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Old Aug 17, 03, 7:52 am
  #6  
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<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by ACORD:
the back-up power supply at their operations center not working this weekend I wonder if management really knows what they are doing.

Does AC ever test this stuff?
</font>
You have to cut AC some slack on this one. Many establishments only have enough emergency power for 24 hours. AC may want to consider increasing it to 48 hours though and / or having a secondary ops facility -- or at least doubling up their ops with Zip and Jazz should any emergency occur.
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Old Aug 17, 03, 12:33 pm
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<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by parnel:

AC will be very healthy in about 60 days;but if you want to start a WS site go for it.
</font>
Not with current management still in place as it's their cancerous attitudes that prevade the current AC/AP culture.

It's also going to be a lot longer than 60 days before they emerge from CCAA - if they emerge.



[This message has been edited by PunishedEdmontonian (edited 08-17-2003).]
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Old Aug 17, 03, 5:53 pm
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<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by ACORD:
Boy, I don't know [shaking head]....

One has to sympathize with AC for disasters outside of their control but with the recent aeroplan.com screw-up and the back-up power supply at their operations center not working this weekend I wonder if management really knows what they are doing.

Does AC ever test this stuff? Do they have any kind of process in plan to manage IT and infrastructure change? Why have business continuity plans if they don't work?

Feels like the Keystone Cops.


[This message has been edited by ACORD (edited 08-16-2003).]
</font>
In Southeast Asia, blackout occurs very commonly as a result of hurricanes/typhons. The airport and airlines are often operational until the wind becomes too strong.

I experienced this once myself. The airport was on emergency power by generators. Lights were reduced to minimal. The planes flied as usual.

So it is really possible to be prepared. You just have to spend that money and test the equipments often.

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Old Aug 17, 03, 6:40 pm
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<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">When should AC shut down the operations centre to do full scale back-up power testing?</font>
There is no need to shut down anything to thoroughly test a backup power system. In any case, it has recently been tested and found lacking. The question now is what will they do to correct the problem so it doesn't occur in the future. My guess is nothing.

<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Many establishments only have enough emergency power for 24 hours.</font>
To supply a facility of this type with adequate power requires generators, so the duration is dependant only upon the supply of natural gas, diesel, or whatever fuel they run on.

I haven't been too hard on AC with the whole blackout thing, and since everyone gets at least one chance, not even the failure of the backup power system. If they were to investigate the cause and take remedial action I'd have not complaint whatsoever.

But I'm pretty sure they won't. They'll just say "it's not our fault" and that will be the end of it. Yes, I know they have bigger things on their mind right now. But it doesn't matter if it's 60 days or 600, once things are a little more settled, they'll still have some excuse as to why they can't deal with this problem.

But let me ask you this: how many tens of millions of dollars could they have saved if they'd spent even as much as $100,000 last week to adequately test and inspect there backup facility?
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Old Aug 17, 03, 6:56 pm
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Here's a couple of tidbits from the NP article, the first giving an actual estimate of the cost of the backup system failure:
<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Douglas Reid, a professor of strategy at the Queen's University School of Business, estimated the airline would lose $25-million in passenger revenue alone from yesterday's disruption.</font>
More telling is this statement which pretty much convinces me that under the current regime nothing will ever get fixed:
<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">"It's very unfortunate for our customers, very frustrating, but there's nothing we can do," said (airline spokeswoman Michele) Meier.</font>
Yep, there just ain't nuthin' we can do.

And obviously some or even most of the rest of the area was able to do at least something:
<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">The situation for Air Canada was exacerbated by the fact most other operations at Pearson, the airline's main hub, were coping with the effects of the blackout by yesterday morning.</font>
So unlike deicing fluid, they can't really blame this one on GTAA. It also seems pretty clear that the airport was prepared to run for a lot longer than "24 hours." So was WestJet.

AC can't be blamed for the power outage. But it's their managements responsibility to anticipate and prepare for emergencies of all types.

And it doesn't have to be a continental blackout to require extended operation on backup systems. A loaded semi losing control and wiping out the sub-station that feeds ACs facility would probably have resulted in even longer delays in restoring power to that particular area. As well, suggesting that no one foresaw a blackout of this magnitude doesn't cut it. It happened in the 60's. It happened in the 90's due to an ice storm. And it happens with fair regularity everywhere, though prehaps for not as long.

I noted back in May or June (in a thread which has since disappeared) that the next big hit against industries of all types, particularly airlines, wasn't that far away.

Neither is the next one.
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Old Aug 17, 03, 7:21 pm
  #11  
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You know ken, I admire your intelligence in addressing the AC management problems. But, and a big but, this was an airline that has ben around for a long time and has some work rules that are undeniably archaic.With this in mind their is no real ABILITY to react properly and urgently to situations that demand some balls to get things done.The union environment is all subversive, in the fact they would like to see AC sink for whatever reasons they think they have to drive their employer out of business. Try running a business like that--and I don't think you do.
Your comments are quite altruistic in a perfect world that we don't live in.
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Old Aug 17, 03, 9:42 pm
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According to the CIC flash to employees the contingency plan for a total system failure is to move to another contracted sight and begin operations from there but this requires a several hour shutdown of all AC operations during the transition. The decision was made to stay put because at the time the back up power was functioning, it had just passed the routine monthly tests and they had 7 days worth of fuel to operate the back up system. By the time the system failed, the reason was undertermined by the time of the flash, the offsight building was no longer available, I presume AC had fist dibs but it was offered to others when AC didn't need (or rather thought they didn't) it. When the power failed the scrambling began, they were able to relocated a small part of the operation to the contingency sight, presumably international ops.

For my part, I am thinking about hiring a witch-doctor to remove whatever curse has been laid on YYZ. The company has enough problems.

I would also like to thank the 99.99% of my passengers who kept their sense of humor and their sense of realistic expectations. It is generally agreed by my colleagues and I that we are fairly lucky in our passenger base. All we have to do is look around the concourse at what other airline agents are being put through to realize that.
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Old Aug 18, 03, 10:53 am
  #13  
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<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by Secret Agent:
contingency plan for a total system failure is to move to another contracted sight and begin operations from there</font>
There are three things that they need to plan for.

1. The power going out. This is what the backup generators are for, but for some reason they failed to continue working.

2. Unable to access the building. This is what the backup site is for. However, I find it odd that another firm would use their backup site. The AC backup site would need special equipment etc to conduct their operations. It should almost be a total replication, albeit likely smaller, of their main ops centre. This too would need backup power.

3. Staff in building that is destroyed. This wold be very serious but they need to keep working. For this scenario they should be able to migrate operations to one of their other sites (i.e. Zip). I do not see why they could not have done this on the weekend, unless they never thought of it or the IT provider (IBM) dropped the ball.

It seems to me that AC needs to improve their disaster recovery plans
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Old Aug 19, 03, 1:46 am
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Originally posted by Secret Agent:
<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2"> </font>
Does it matter what SA posted?

No! The important thing is that s/he posted! Hallelujah!

What a welcome surpise. I wish I'd come back to this thread earlier.

In any case, if they were actually regularly testing the backup system, then I guess I better lay off them for a bit. But they better do a thorough investigation to figure out just what happened and take steps to prevent it in future.

'Cause if with the current comprimsed electrical transmission system on the eastern part of the continent, there's another blackout, and the backup system fails again, well, I tell ya, there'll be root beer coming out of my nose.


[This message has been edited by Ken hAAmer (edited 08-19-2003).]
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