Multiple American Airlines flights were thrown into chaos tonight as an app issue with the on-board iPads used by pilots made it impossible to take off. Affected flights appeared to include AA2413, AA2276, AA1654, AA235, and AA128. Attempts to reach American Airlines directly were not initially successful, but the company confirmed the issue to passenger Bill Jacaruso via Twitter.
The issue affected "a few dozen" flights
"Some flights are experiencing an issue with a software application on pilot iPads," American Airlines spokesperson Andrea Huguely later told The Verge. "In some cases, the flight has had to return to the gate to access a Wi-Fi connection to fix the issue. We apologize for the inconvenience to our customers. We are working to have them on the way to their destination as soon as possible." Another spokesperson said that the issue affected "a few dozen flights" across the airline. "We've identified the issue, we've identified the solution, and we are working on it right now."
Jacaruso, 54, was traveling home to Austin from Dallas/Fort Worth airport on flight AA1654 with his wife, Toni, and his beagle, Masita. "We got on the plane and it was supposed to leave at 8:20PM CT. We got on at 8 and just sat there," he tells The Verge. The pilot got on the intercom after a while and said that his copilot's iPad went blank, then 24 minutes later the pilot's went blank too, according to Jacaruso.
The entire American Airlines fleet is at a ground stop b/c the pilots' iPads can't retrieve the flight plans. @AmericanAir, keep us posted.— Toni Jacaruso (@HotelNinja) April 29, 2015
The pilot then announced to Jacaruso's plane that all iPads on 737s were affected. About 45 minutes later, the pilot came back on to say, "It looks like it's not just 737s, it's random, but no one's going anywhere til we figure it out." Jacaruso then deplaned with his wife and dog, and is now renting a car to drive to Austin. Kristin Thompson, a passenger flying from JFK to Seattle on SS235, tells The Verge that two systems failed and had to be "completely rebooted."
In 2012, American Airlines became the first airline to get FAA approval for iPad use in all stages of flight from gate to gate. Many airlines use iPads as an electronic flight bag, which can save significant fuel costs by replacing bulky 35-pound manuals, but American Airlines' FAA approval allowed it to use the tablets under 10,000 feet before it became commonplace for passengers.