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Proving that these days, running an airline properly is more than just about safety and smiles, Virgin Blue has suffered its second computer systems meltdown in just four months, causing widespread delays and long queues of frustrated passengers. There is now a question of whether Virgin's Navitaire system has serious inherent flaws.

The critical bookings and baggage handling systems both crashed in a virtual re-run of the catastrophic computer failure of September 2010 and the crash included Virgin Blue's heavily used Web booking system.

That last failure of the Virgin Navitaire system lasted almost a complete day before the servers came back online and caused Virgin to seek compensation from Accenture subsidiary Navitaire for millions in lost revenues and goodwill.

Virgin also promised to sit down with Navitaire in the days following the September 2010 crash and root out the source of the problem only to be faced with another systems failure within two days that extended the problems for a further week.

This latest computer crash, which looks to be as serious as the 2010 fiasco, will place more question marks around the integrity and robustness of the .NET based Navitaire New Skies system which claims to be able to handle load spikes and scale easily as passenger volumes increase.

The crash also raises questions about the level of redundancy built into Navitaire, which is supposed to provide back-up systems in the event of failure.

At last report, the back-up systems had kicked in and the systems were once again up and running. However, no reason has been given as to why the outage ran into hours.

As a result of the crash, Virgin was forced to implement manual procedures for passenger and baggage handling, causing lengthy delays and long queues, as staff were overwhelmed. Planes leaving all major capitals on the East Coast were often more than an hour late in departing.

Virgin upgraded to the Navitaire New Skies system from the previous Navitaire Open Skies system in an $11 million implementation in June 2010. Navitaire systems are in use by 70 airlines around the world.



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Stan Beer


Stan Beer co-founded iTWire in 2005. With 25 years of experience working in Australian technology media, Beer has published articles in most of the IT publications that have mattered, including the AFR, The Australian, SMH, The Age, as well as a multitude of trade publications.