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'Amateur' IBM brings down Air New Zealand

Mainframe power failure strands thousands

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The boss of Air New Zealand has launched an astonishing attack on IBM after a catastrophic system crash crippled the airline and left passengers stranded.

The massive IBM letdown could see the vendor turfed out of its contract with the New Zealand flag carrier.

The chaos was down to a crash at the airline's mainframe, which is in the care of IBM. The outage downed the airline's check-in desks, online bookings and call centres on Sunday, Aussie paper The Age reports.

An airline spokesman told the paper that it appeared a power failure caused the initial outage, but things were compounded by a delay getting a backup generator up and and running.

The mainframe is maintained by IBM, which also manages the airline's mid-range systems.

CEO Rob Fyfe placed the blame squarely on IBM in an email, which inevitably hit the media almost immediately.

"In my 30-year working career, I am struggling to recall a time where I have seen a supplier so slow to react to a catastrophic system failure such as this and so unwilling to accept responsibility and apologise to its client and its client's customers," he thundered.

"We were left high and dry and this is simply unacceptable. My expectations of IBM were far higher than the amateur results that were delivered yesterday, and I have been left with no option but to ask the IT team to review the full range of options available to us to ensure we have an IT supplier whom we have confidence in and one who understands and is fully committed to our business and the needs of our customers."

IBM has said it "regrets" the chaos. It might be regretting things a whole lot more later today. The Age reports that the airline was to meet with IBM today.

If Fyfe pitches in, IBM could find itself booted off the account, and having to find its own way home.

Luckily there are no reports of injuries in yesterday's chaos. This must surely be down, in part, to Air New Zealand's innovative naked safety warning routine, as reported by us back in July. ®

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