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Southwest Airlines cancels 450 flights Thursday after computer outage

Passengers wait in line at the Southwest Airlines terminal at Dallas Love Field Airport in Dallas on Wednesday, July 20, 2016. Technical issues disrupted Southwest Airlines’ operations system wide, including Love Field, grounding flights and causing long lines at airports across the country. (Rose Baca/The Dallas Morning News)
Passengers wait in line at the Southwest Airlines terminal at Dallas Love Field Airport in Dallas on Wednesday, July 20, 2016. Technical issues disrupted Southwest Airlines’ operations system wide, including Love Field, grounding flights and causing long lines at airports across the country. (Rose Baca/The Dallas Morning News) Staff Photographer

Southwest Airlines canceled 450 flights on Thursday as the carrier attempts to get its operations back on track after a computer outage on Wednesday.

“We are focused on getting customers and their luggage safely to their travel destinations and apologize to our customers whose travel plans are impacted,” Southwest said in a statement early Thursday morning.

The Dallas-based carrier had multiple technology systems go down during a computer outage on Wednesday afternoon. Customers were unable to check in for flights or print luggage tags from self-check in kiosks at airports. Southwest’s website, Southwest.com was also unavailable for most of the afternoon.

Southwest chief executive Gary Kelly said the outage started at about 1 p.m. as there was router failure and then the backups failed as well. The network was fully restored by about 1 a.m. Thursday morning.

“I want to apologize to all of our customers that were affected yesterday and today,” Kelly said on a conference call with investors on Thursday. “This is absolutely not the kind of service that our customers expect or what we expect of ourselves.”

Kelly added that he hoped after a day to recover that operations will be back to normal by Friday morning.

“We haven’t had anything like this in our history,” Kelly said. “What we do understand is that some of our older legacy applications were the culprit.”

This is not the first time Southwest’s older technology has caused flight delays. Last October, a computer outage led to hundreds of Southwest flights to be canceled as agents had to write paper boarding passes. And in June 2015, the company’s website crashed during a fare sale because it couldn’t handle the demand from Internet shoppers.

As a result of this week’s outage, Southwest canceled almost 700 flights on Wednesday and delayed hundreds more as employees had to use backup procedures, such as writing out manual boarding passes for customers. Lines to check in at Southwest ticket counters at airports across the country were long, with customers waiting several hours.

The carrier was offering flexible rebooking options for customers for travel through Sunday. It was also extending a fare sale that was supposed to end on Friday to allow customers a chance to book tickets on its website.

“It's never too early to say thank you and to extend our apologies and we want to share those sentiments both with our hard-working employees and our loyal and understanding customers, whom we hope to welcome back for a better experience soon,” the company said in the statement.

Andrea Ahles: 817-390-7631, @Sky_Talk

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