Delta Airlines: Atlanta Airport Security Glitch Costly

Electronic malfunction of security equipment cost company more than $1.3 million


ATLANTA_Delta Air Lines Inc., which is operating under bankruptcy protection, said Friday a computer software glitch at a security checkpoint at the world's busiest airport cost it more than $1.3 million.

The revelation about Wednesday's disruption at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport came in a letter from Joe Kolshak, Delta's executive vice president and chief of operations, to Transportation Security Administration Director Kip Hawley.

"These costs are not insignificant for an airline that is fighting for its survival," Kolshak wrote.

Hawley told reporters Thursday that the scare that shut down security checkpoints for two hours was the result of a computer glitch in testing software. He said an airport screener spotted what looked like an explosive on an X-ray machine. She pressed a button that should have signaled a routine security test was being conducted, but it failed to respond, Hawley said.

By the time checkpoints reopened, no planes had departed for more than an hour and all arrivals were delayed by at least 90 minutes. The shutdown came at peak travel time and at least 120 flights were affected.

Kolshak said in his letter to Hawley that more than 7,000 Delta customers were affected by flight cancelations, diversions and delays.

"We believe that a breakdown in the testing process as well as communications caused an undue burden on passengers and on this airline, and could have been avoided," Kolshak wrote.

In a meeting with reporters at the airport Thursday, Hawley apologized for the delays that affected passengers. But he said he is pleased with the performance of the TSA screeners in Atlanta. The screener acted properly in what should have been a routine drill, he said.

Delta, the nation's No. 3 carrier, has lost more than $12.8 billion since January 2001. The Atlanta-based company filed for bankruptcy protection in New York on Sept. 14.

<<AP Online -- 04/24/06>>