Thousands of travellers delayed at U.S. airports by computer outage

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WASHINGTON — Thousands of travellers at U.S. airports faced delays late on Friday because of an nationwide outage of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) processing systems, officials said.

CBP said in a statement the outage was temporary and “officers continue to process international travellers using alternative procedures until systems are back online. Travellers at some ports of entry are experiencing longer than usual wait times.”

A Customs spokeswoman could not offer an estimate on when the system would be back up and running.

The computer issue is not impacting departures.

JFK Airport in New York said on Twitter that “the Customs computer system is down nationwide. The agents are processing people manually.”

People at various U.S. airports posted videos on social media sites of lengthy lines at processing checkpoints and several airports warned of extensive delays.

On an average day, CBP processes around 358,000 air passengers and crew.

American Airlines spokesman Ross Feinstein said the airline was “aware of the outage and are in contact with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.”

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said the outage had not caused any changes in flights.

This is not the first time the system has faced problems. The system was down for four hours on Jan. 2, 2017 as many travellers were returning from holiday trips.

A Homeland Security inspector general’s office report issued in November 2017 found “inadequate CBP software capacity testing, leaving the potential for recurrence of processing errors.”

The report also warned of “inadequate business continuity and disaster recovery capabilities to minimize the impact of system failures on the travelling public. Until such deficiencies are addressed, CBP lacks a means to minimize the possibility and impact of similar system outages in the future.”

CBP told the inspector general in 2017 that as “CBP moves to a cloud computing environment, improved performance and lead testing to emulate a production environment will be included in the requirements.”

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