Go Back  FlyerTalk Forums > Travel&Dining > Travel Safety/Security > Practical Travel Safety and Security Issues
Reload this Page >

LAX Customs/Border Protection Computer Fiasco 11 August

LAX Customs/Border Protection Computer Fiasco 11 August

Old Aug 12, 07, 2:43 pm
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2001
Posts: 8,929
LAX Customs/Border Protection Computer Fiasco 11 August

Strange, I can't find this discussed anywhere (I am sure someone will point me to the right places)

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la...la-home-center has the background story.

Anyway, I am just amazed by what happened. Computer went down and tens of thousands (11,000-20,000 - probably just the inbounds) of people stranded and delayed. I think probably 50 flights were delayed.

Was anyone part of this?

I guess this is really a national security issue so the government has full power to do whatever they want What shocks me is that how long the outage was and there was no computer or manual backup.

I am not sure what the process or involved systems are. However, if this thing is so important to us, why did this happen?
username is offline  
Old Aug 12, 07, 3:00 pm
FlyerTalk Evangelist
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: America's Finest City
Posts: 10,806
Really close call for us. My husband arrived Friday night with three hard drives full of data we were transferring in order to close down our Manila data center. Every moment was critical in loading it and restoring our business function. Immigration was not fully staffed even then at the Bradley terminal.
LLM is offline  
Old Aug 12, 07, 3:47 pm
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: DTW
Programs: Dirt Status w/ All
Posts: 4,994
Saw this on the news this morning and it was amazing how they were trying to spin it into a security risk. Yes it was a messed up inconvenience for those involved, but nobody got into the US without clearing customs/immigration screening.

Computer systems break. Power lines break. Subway systems flood. It is not that amazing that something like this could happen. I've been stuck on outbounds when NWs computer systems were having issues and they could not compute weight and balance for an hour.

Yes they need to do root cause analysis and put in corrective actions to make sure that it does not happen again, but a computer system failure is not that unique in the world.
tev9999 is offline  
Old Aug 12, 07, 3:57 pm
Moderator, Hilton Honors
Join Date: Nov 2003
Location: hopefully travelling
Programs: up in the air
Posts: 70,807
Discussed in BA & LH forums (at least).
Kiwi Flyer is offline  
Old Aug 12, 07, 5:32 pm
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: Orlando
Programs: DL 4MM/PM, UA 1MM/Gold, AA Paper
Posts: 1,383
Makes the USA look like a third world country yet again in the eyes of our guests who were stuck on these planes for hours. I am appalled at this debacle by the Immigration and Customs.
OrlandoFlyer is offline  
Old Aug 12, 07, 6:21 pm
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: Washington, DC
Posts: 180
I just missed it, too. After being delayed 20h at NRT, with my daughter's 6th birthday party today (passed through LAX a few hours before the problem). If I'd been caught, I'd have missed the party and faced a household of very very angry people...
adamgoldberg is offline  
Old Aug 12, 07, 6:32 pm
Join Date: Feb 2000
Posts: 13,344
I got into LAX about 2 hrs before the meltdown.

Thank you UA for an early arrival
MapleLeaf is offline  
Old Aug 12, 07, 8:06 pm
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Behind you
Programs: UA, DL, HA, QF (ex-TW, AA, NW)
Posts: 4,993
CNN says >20,000 people

Their article
DanTravels is offline  
Old Aug 12, 07, 8:40 pm
FlyerTalk Evangelist
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: BWI
Programs: AA Gold, HH Silver, National Emerald Executive, TSA Disparager Gold
Posts: 15,122
Originally Posted by OrlandoFlyer View Post
Makes the USA look like a third world country yet again in the eyes of our guests who were stuck on these planes for hours. I am appalled at this debacle by the Immigration and Customs.
It's ran by DHS. What else did you expect?
Superguy is offline  
Old Aug 12, 07, 9:07 pm
FlyerTalk Evangelist
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Miami, FL
Programs: AA EXP/Marriott Plat/Hertz PC
Posts: 12,724
Originally Posted by DanTravels View Post
It's an incredibly stupid article. First it says this:

Weary international passengers were stuck at Los Angeles International Airport for several hours, after a computer failure prevented customs officials from screening arrivals.
Then is says this:

ore than 20,000 international passengers, both Americans and foreigners, sat in four airport terminals and in 60 planes starting about 2 p.m. on Saturday, when the computer system broke down, said Los Angeles World Airports spokesman Paul Haney


The computers were fully restored at 11:45 p.m.,

whirledtraveler is offline  
Old Aug 12, 07, 9:18 pm
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: ICN / 평택
Programs: AA, DL Silver, UA Gold, HHonors Gold
Posts: 8,563
During Cold War days, NORAD was blind on more than one occasion for at least more than a few minutes. Titan missile silos were non-operational and nuclear submarines were often outside of radio frequency range. Did the world come to an end? Did we call the Russians on the red phone and say "Hold up, we need a few minutes to get our act back together"?

No. The enemy had no idea that our systems were down for a spell and we had no intention of letting them know. They were too scared of M.A.D. to attempt to attack us when they 'knew' that our systems were always up. I'm sure that the roles were reversed countless times with the Soviet systems being down as well.

The point to my story: Since the enemy is expecting our systems to be up at all times, it is more harmful to admit that the computers are down and create a scene than it is to simply act like the systems are up and take the off chance that a terror group will attempt to illegally enter while the systems are being brought back up and people are simply processed without the border checks.

Telling the world that our computer systems for border control can go down on a whim or be compromised by hackers is really not a smart concept to me.
etch5895 is offline  
Old Aug 12, 07, 10:00 pm
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: LAX
Programs: UA/AA
Posts: 1,705
Here is the local coverage from KABC-TV

Breakdown in Immigration Computer System; Flights Diverted to Ontario, Las Vegas

By Leanne Suter

L.A. INT'L AIRPORT, August 11, 2007 (KABC-TV) - 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.

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.

jaymar01 is offline  
Old Aug 12, 07, 10:09 pm
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: SJC, SFO, NYC
Programs: 1K, Hertz Five Star
Posts: 1,031
Originally Posted by whirledtraveler View Post
It did say SEVERAL hours (your highlight, not mine)!!!

But stupid article, agreed!
bnarayan1511 is offline  
Old Aug 12, 07, 10:37 pm
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2001
Posts: 8,929
I hope they do a full inquiry into this and find out why. I am not sure how much of it can be made public but, as a computer type, I am really curious.

I would think the whole system runs as a centralized system somewhere - it does not make sense each airport has its own system to handle APIS data. It seems the outage was not on the server - somehow just the workstations at TBIT? Was it some kind of communications problem?

I wonder which component of the system failed. If it was just the part that compares the list of flagged people (which is probably short) with arriving passengers, could they have done it manually (even catch these people plane-side)?

If it is the part that takes fingerprints and compares with the database, then I guess it could be a problem to do things "offline". I am not even sure if they do a real-time compare with the fingerprint databases anyway (is it technologically possible for the AFIS to search that fast?)

Anyway, I wonder how much this ended up costing the government (overtime), airlines (fuel while waiting, crew time, extra food for inbound/outbound passengers - some airlines probably did try to do more for their passengers, ripple effects) and LAWA (overtime, etc.) If you think about, a lot of the airlines ended up having multiple widebodies tied up in LAX for hours (it seems 4-8 hours for some of the Asian carriers). It will probably take 2-3 days to catch up for smaller airlines.

Here is a news release from AS that shows the impact: http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/070812/clsu002.html?.v=21

The sad thing is that if this was a banking system, it would probably have been restored in minutes as there is redundancy. Yet, for critical stuff like this, we ended up in a huge chaos. I wonder where all the money went - not fixing bridges, not building reliable computer systems, obviously...

Last edited by username; Aug 12, 07 at 10:53 pm
username is offline  
Old Aug 12, 07, 10:55 pm
FlyerTalk Evangelist
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 10,037
Originally Posted by whirledtraveler View Post
Agree it's a poorly written article, but 11:45pm is when things were FULLY restored.

Other sources said it took about three to four hours to get the backup system going.

Sleep well, America. This computer infrastructure is made by the Department of Homeland Security.
LessO2 is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread