Los Angeles Airport officials criticize feds over computer glitches

Posted by Humphrey Cheung

Los Angeles (CA) – Los Angeles Airport officials are fuming over this weekend’s computer glitches at the airport and they are now placing the blame on the U.S. Customs agency.  According to this Los Angeles Times article, the airport believes Customs inadequately responded to the computer problems which stranded more than 17,000 people in hotels and planes on Saturday and nearly 2,000 more on Sunday.  Customs officials acknowledge that they misdiagnosed the cause of the glitches, but stress that they did “everything we could”.

We previously reported that international passengers were delayed entry into the United States because of a failure in one of the Custom’s Agency’s network switches at LAX.  Customs is now saying that an internal router failed which cut connections at both the local area network and to the outside national database.

Unfortunately, Customs technicians misdiagnosed the problem and initially blamed the network failure on its external Sprint Nextel lines.  To compound the problem, airport officials say Customs waited more than an hour to call Sprint.

The Sprint technician finally arrived four hours later at 6 PM and at 9 PM he found that Sprint’s lines weren’t the cause of the problem.  Another computer contractor repaired the network around 11 PM.

During the downtime, passengers that had just arrived on international flights were forced to sit inside their planes on the tarmac.  A brief city versus federal power struggle ensued, after the captive passengers complained about the lack of air conditioning, food and water.  Some passengers even became sick and had to be transported to the hospital.  Los Angeles City fire stationed an extra forty ambulances near the airport as a precaution.  Several passengers spoke about their ordeal to CBS 2 News and you can view the article here.

U.S. Customs officials insisted on keeping everyone on the planes for security issues.  A federal spokesman told the Los Angeles Times, “We can’t risk our security for even one traveler… what if one was a terrorist.”  Los Angeles Airport and City officials considered storming the planes and housing the weary passengers at nearby schools and other government buildings.

Paul Haney, deputy executive director for airports and security for Los Angeles World Airports, said the airport would have gladly paid any federal fines that would have resulted from moving unscreened passengers.  Customs eventually allowed food, water and portable toilets to be brought on the planes.