US flights grounded due to FAA computer glitch - will my flight be cancelled or delayed?

The Federal Aviation Administration has now restored its Notice to Air Missions System, after a computer glitch caused flights across the US to be grounded.

US media is reporting that all flights have been grounded due to a computer glitch. Credit: Scott Heins/Getty ImagesUS media is reporting that all flights have been grounded due to a computer glitch. Credit: Scott Heins/Getty Images
US media is reporting that all flights have been grounded due to a computer glitch. Credit: Scott Heins/Getty Images

Flights across the USA were grounded or cancelled on Wednesday (11 January) morning due to a glitch with the Federal Aviation Administration’s computer system, US media reported.

Passengers said that the glitch was impacting flights from Europe to the US. According to aviation analytics firm Cirium, more than 21,000 flights were due to depart airports in the US on Wednesday (11 January) with almost three million American travellers set to be affected.

Virgin Atlantic flight VS26 from New York JFK to London Heathrow was among those delayed. More than 1,100 other flights landing or leaving the US were also delayed, said, with 94 cancelled.

In a statement to NBC at the time, the FAA said: “The FAA is working to restore its Notice to Air Missions System. We are performing final validation checks and repopulating the system now. Operations across the National Airspace System are affected. We will provide frequent updates as we make progress.”

The agency’s system has since started working again, and flights are back to normal. Things began to “come back on line” from around 9am Eastern time or from 2pm UK time.

Travellers across the globe tweeted to say their flights had been delayed. Sal Paradise wrote: “In Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. Airline just informed us that the FAA computers are down in the US and no flights are flying to America.”

Which flights were cancelled or delayed?

The glitch mainly affected US airlines, such as Delta. United Airlines said it had delayed all domestic flights while the system was being fixed.

British Airways told NationalWorld that its flights were continuing to operate as normal. The airline said: “Our flights to and from the US are continuing to operate as planned. We advise customers to check for the latest flight information.”

Virgin Atlantic added that it was continuing its schedule of UK to US flights. A spokesperson told NationalWorld: “We’re aware of the FAA’s recent Notice to Air Missions system outage, and the ongoing effort to restore normal US airspace operations. We’re working closely with the relevant authorities and following careful assessment, continue to operate our schedule of US flights departing from the UK.

“Due to FAA restrictions, some US departures may be affected by delays and we apologise in advance to affected customers. We encourage customers due to travel today to check their flight status in advance at”

Can I get compensation if my flight is delayed?

UK airline passengers affected by the grounding of flights in the US are unlikely to be entitled to compensation, Which? has warned. The consumer group said the disruption caused by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) computer outage which prevented pilots being sent hazard alerts would be considered outside airlines’ control.

Under UK consumer law, airline passengers are entitled to compensation of up to £520 for disruption caused by a problem under the control of the airline, such as a staffing issue or aircraft fault.

Rory Boland, editor of magazine Which? Travel, said: “If your flight to or from the US is cancelled because of the FAA computer outage and you are departing from the UK or EU, or travelling with an airline based there, you will be entitled to a refund or rebooking at the earliest available opportunity, including with other carriers if necessary.

“However, passengers are unlikely to be owed additional compensation as the outage is considered an extraordinary circumstance, outside of the airlines’ control. If you are significantly delayed, usually by two hours or more, your airline should also provide assistance including free meals or refreshments, or overnight accommodation if required.

“If your flight is delayed by more than five hours, you have the same rights as if you had suffered a cancellation, and can request a refund or rebooking.”