WestJet COO: System Outage Resolved but Further Cancellations this Week Expected

WestJet Boeing 737 MAX 8.On Sunday 06NOV, WestJet Chief Operating Officer Diederik Pen released a public announcement regarding a system-wide outage which impacted the airline's operations across its network on 05NOV, which resulted in more than 200 flight cancellations and "significant delays" throughout 05-06NOV. In an interview with CTV News on 06NOV, Pen said there had been 144 cancelled flights on Saturday and 100 on Sunday.

According to Pen, the outage was caused by a "cooling issue" in the carrier's primary data centre. Upon learning of the issue, WestJet says it immediately implemented procedures to run backup options and manual processes where possible, "to minimize guest impact."

"On behalf of the entire WestJet team, we sincerely apologize to all guests for this unforeseen disruption to their travel plans and the resulting impact on communications, affecting our ability to relay information. We deeply regret this weekend’s extraordinary events that prevented us from delivering the experience our guests deserve," Pen wrote.

According to Pen, the outage has been resolved and all systems are back online, but the carrier is still experiencing "some instability," which is resulting in further cancellations and delays.

"Unfortunately, due to the scope of yesterday’s network impact, we continue to see residual disruptions. Further delays and cancellations in the coming days will be required, as we work diligently to recover our operations," Pen said.

Air Conditioning System to Blame

Pen told CTV News that the air conditioning system in WestJet's data centre shut down at around noon 05NOV and could not be restarted.

"As a result, our entire computer data centre overheated and shut down," Pen said. "It's the core of our system, and it, unfortunately, took nine hours for the system to be restarted."

With more than 200 flights cancelled over the weekend, Pen said the "significant disruption" would continue to have "ripple effects" throughout the company's system this week.

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When asked how many days he thought it would take for WestJet to return to normal operations, Pen declined to offer a specific timeframe.

"I don't want to make any false promises," he said. "We believe it will take tomorrow and potentially the day after for everything to be back to normal and stable."

WestJet's Advice for Pax

According to Pen, around 6,500 guests affected by the cancellations still need to be rebooked, and said WestJet is adding flights to its schedule "wherever it can" to accommodate them.

"We understand we let our guests down, and as we work to restore normal operations we owe our sincere gratitude to all who continue to demonstrate patience and understanding," he said.

He added that the carrier is currently experiencing "very high volumes for our phone, email and social media support channels and long lineups at airports."

Passengers are asked to check WestJet's app or web site for further information on their flight.

"In an effort to assist guests with imminent travel plans, we are asking all other guests to refrain from contacting us until 72 hours in advance of their flight to ensure we are able to prioritize calls," Pen wrote.

Re-accommodation options for all impacted guests will be communicated through email "as soon as possible." However, Pen said WestJet is "unable to assist guests who are coming to our airports for re-accommodations."

Pen concluded that the airline is undertaking a "full review" of the incident.

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