CNS – Mayor Antonio Villa-raigosa has asked federal officials to take steps to prevent a recurrence of last weekend’s chaos at LAX, where some 20,000 travelers were stranded because of a customs and border protection computer glitch.
Villaraigosa said the inconvenience experienced by arriving passengers as a result of the “unprecedented” outage was “troubling and unacceptable.”
The computer system, which is used to process travelers entering and leaving the country and identifies those on a “no-fly” terrorist watch list, went down about 2 p.m. Saturday and was not restored for about seven hours.
The outage prompted security officials to keep international passengers on their planes on the tarmac for up to six hours, creating gridlock throughout LAX.
Passengers aboard more than 40 aircraft were stuck for hours on planes on the ground, and seven international flights were diverted to Ontario International Airport, according to Los Angeles World Airports, which operates both facilities.
Some passengers became ill, and a 65-year-old man aboard an Alaskan Airlines flight was taken to Centinela Hospital to be treated for a possible heart attack, a floor captain said.
Many people spent the night—or long portions of it—sitting on airport sidewalks, as chairs were overflowing with sleeping people. Hotels in the area were also booked up.
“It’s third world, it’s just disgraceful,” said one tourist from Ireland, Caroline O’Rourke, as she sat crumpled on her suitcase outside the Tom Bradley International Terminal.
The breakdown has been traced to a hardware problem. Michael Fleming, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection agency in Los Angeles, told the Los Angeles Times that “a computer switch failed, which knocked down our entire communications system. We had to diagnose and locate the problem and replace the switch”
He could not provide further details about what went wrong, The Times reported.
Villaraigosa said in a statement yesterday that Customs and Border
Protection must do better.
“I have been in contact with Department of Homeland Security Secretary
Michael Chertoff and senior U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials to request a thorough investigation and incident report—which should include changes to procedures and protocols to ensure faster and more convenient processing of passengers in the event of future systems failures,” he said.
“I have also requested an increase in Home Security staff at both LAX and LA/Ontario International Airport, which would allow for a more flexible response should future problems arise at the nation’s second largest international destination.”
Villaraigosa said federal officials told him they will take steps to be better prepared to deal with any future disruptions at LAX.