Southwest passenger delays at Atlanta's airport, outage fixed

The Southwest Airlines counter at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport was packed Thursday morning after technology problems on Wednesday caused hundreds of flights across the country to be delayed or canceled. 

Southwest said most of its systems are back online Thursday morning, but "recovery will take some time." 

"Our employees are the best in the business and they are working extremely hard to get you and your luggage to your destination," an airline official said in a statement online. 

Southwest began having intermittent problems with several computer systems after an outage around 3 p.m. on Wednesday. Southwest briefly held planes at their gates, according to spokesman Brad Hawkins. Even after those planes resumed moving, delays piled up over the next several hours. By late Wednesday night, the airline tweeted that it was still manually checking in passengers.

For about three hours, visitors to couldn't buy tickets, check in for flights, or check their flight's status. The site appeared to be working again by late afternoon, then crashed again. Shortly before 11 p.m., Southwest said the outages had caused 600 to 700 canceled and delayed flights. Tracking service FlightStats Inc. put the numbers much higher — 400 cancelations and 2,000 delays.

Southwest has warned customers booked on Thursday flights to check their flight's status online and arrive at the airport early because long lines were expected.

The Southwest ticket counter at Atlanta's airport was swamped early Thursday with travelers affected by the glitch. 

Southwest said it has mostly fixed computer problems. The airline said "most systems are back online" after problems that began with an outage Wednesday afternoon and continued intermittently well into the night.

"We know we disappointed customers today. We are really, really sorry about that," spokeswoman Linda Rutherford said in a video that the airline posted Wednesday night. "That is unacceptable to us."

Southwest officials said they had not identified the cause of the outage. Several of the airline's technology systems were affected for several hours. The airline briefly held up all departing flights on Wednesday, and its website and electronic check-in systems failed.

After a similar outage last October resulted in 800 delayed flights, Southwest blamed a faulty software application.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.