Computer problems delay air travelers

A virus may have crippled a crucial U.S. Custom and Border Protection’s computer system Thursday night, leading to delays for travelers at many major airports, CBP officials said.

Travelers at airports in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco, Houston, Dallas and Laredo, Texas, were among those delayed when CBP's system that helps process incoming international travelers went down, said CBP spokesman Barry Morrissey.

CBP is investigating what happened at its National Data Center in Virginia, Morrissey said. A virus may have been the culprit, he said.

The first effects were noted at about 5:30 p.m. EDT, and the problems were not cleared up until 11:30 p.m. EDT, Morrissey said.

CBP personnel at affected airports switched to manual inspections, Morrissey said. They reached out to their colleagues at airports where the system was still working to run passengers through the system, he said.

For example, Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston first experienced problems around 5 p.m. CDT, Judy Turner, CBP spokeswoman for East and South Texas, said. CBP officials at the airport assigned additional CBP staff members to process between 1,500 and 2,000 travelers, she said.

The computer outage didn't have a big impact because it did not occur at a peak travel time, Turner said. The procedure normally takes 20 minutes and took an hour without the computer, she said.

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