Air NZ CEO chides IBM over yesterday's outage

Internal email shows frustration at crash that affected check-in, bookings and call centre

Air New Zealand chief executive Rob Fyfe has lashed out at IBM in an internal email about yesterday’s mainframe crash that crippled services and disrupted thousands of passengers. “In my 30-year working career, I am struggling to recall a time where I have seen a supplier so slow to react to a catastrophic system failure such as this and so unwilling to accept responsibility and apologise to its client and its client’s customers,” he says. “We were left high and dry and this is simply unacceptable. My expectations of IBM were far higher than the amateur results that were delivered yesterday, and I have been left with no option but to ask the IT team to review the full range of options available to us to ensure we have an IT supplier whom we have confidence in and one who understands and is fully committed to our business and the needs of our customers". Air New Zealand was to meet IBM today over the crash, which took down airport check-in systems, as well as online bookings and call centre systems about 9.30am yesterday, affecting more than 10,000 passengers and throwing airports into chaos.

The airline said most systems were restored around 1.30pm,but the passenger backlog did not start to clear until self check-in kiosks were up and running again about 3.30pm.

Air NZ's short haul airlines group general manager, Bruce Parton, told Radio New Zealand the fault appeared to have been caused by a power failure, followed by a delay in a back-up generator running.

"Ten thousand-plus customers affected on the last day of holidays, and millions of dollars of revenue not going through our online site, you can be assured we'll be having some very serious discussions with IBM today."

But most passengers delayed by the outage were unlikely to get compensation.

"We'll go through that today. Most people moved within an hour and so it doesn't hit the threshold (for compensation)," Parton said. Air New Zealand outsourced its mainframe to IBM in 1997. Four years later, it also outsourced its mid-range systems to IBM.

The outage was caused by a back-up generator suffering a power failure during a scheduled maintenance check at IBM's Newton datacentre in Auckland on Sunday morning.

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