faa computer glitch update live nr_00003216.jpg
WJLA
faa computer glitch update live nr_00003216.jpg
Now playing
01:57
Computer glitch caused flight delays
Dr. James Yaingeluo
Now playing
01:19
Plane lands short of runway, crashes into sea
Now playing
01:03
See jet's white-knuckle landing attempt
courtesy larry coben
Now playing
02:16
Passenger describes being quarantined on plane
WZTV
Now playing
01:20
Passengers on plane possibly exposed to illness
burbank airport plane fight
Twitter/Nick Krause
burbank airport plane fight
Now playing
00:49
Fight erupts aboard Southwest flight
Shutterstock
Now playing
01:18
Scorpion stings passenger on United flight
Passenger chases plane on tarmac orig vstop dlewis_00000000.jpg
CC.OO. Ryanair & Lesma Handling
Passenger chases plane on tarmac orig vstop dlewis_00000000.jpg
Now playing
00:50
Passenger chases plane on tarmac
Courtesy Spirit Airlines
Now playing
00:50
Woman gives birth midair on Spirit flight
The engine on a Southwest Airlines plane is inspected as it sits on the runway at the Philadelphia International Airport after it made an emergency landing in Philadelphia, Tuesday, April 17, 2018. (Amanda Bourman via AP)
Amanda Bourman/AP
The engine on a Southwest Airlines plane is inspected as it sits on the runway at the Philadelphia International Airport after it made an emergency landing in Philadelphia, Tuesday, April 17, 2018. (Amanda Bourman via AP)
Now playing
01:07
Nurse on plane: Made every effort to save woman
(180514) -- CHENGDU, May 14, 2018 (Xinhua) -- Flight 3U8633, operated by Sichuan Airlines, prepares to conduct emergency landing after a mechanical failure in Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport in Chengdu, capital of southwest China's Sichuan Province, May 14, 2018. Part of the cockpit window broke as the Airbus A319 flew over Chengdu. The plane was en route from southwest China's Chongqing Municipality to Lhasa, capital of Tibet Autonomous Region. It was forced to divert to an alternate airport in Chengdu. All passengers are safe, although the co-pilot sustained injuries to the face and waist, and another crew member was slightly hurt during the emergency landing. After the landing on Monday morning, the airline has arranged another flight to take the passengers to Lhasa. (Xinhua/Wan Bi) (ry) (Photo by Xinhua/Sipa USA)
Xinhua/Sipa USA
(180514) -- CHENGDU, May 14, 2018 (Xinhua) -- Flight 3U8633, operated by Sichuan Airlines, prepares to conduct emergency landing after a mechanical failure in Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport in Chengdu, capital of southwest China's Sichuan Province, May 14, 2018. Part of the cockpit window broke as the Airbus A319 flew over Chengdu. The plane was en route from southwest China's Chongqing Municipality to Lhasa, capital of Tibet Autonomous Region. It was forced to divert to an alternate airport in Chengdu. All passengers are safe, although the co-pilot sustained injuries to the face and waist, and another crew member was slightly hurt during the emergency landing. After the landing on Monday morning, the airline has arranged another flight to take the passengers to Lhasa. (Xinhua/Wan Bi) (ry) (Photo by Xinhua/Sipa USA)
Now playing
00:51
Co-pilot sucked halfway out of plane
A JetBlue flight from San Juan to Tampa was diverted when the outer layer of the plane's windshield shattered.
WFTS
A JetBlue flight from San Juan to Tampa was diverted when the outer layer of the plane's windshield shattered.
Now playing
00:42
JetBlue windshield shatters mid-flight
Air Canada
Now playing
01:15
Plane nearly landed on a crowded taxiway
KYW
Now playing
01:32
Southwest plane makes emergency landing
australia bali flight airasia seven network pkg_00013614.jpg
australia bali flight airasia seven network pkg_00013614.jpg
Now playing
01:27
Inside AirAsia flight as it dropped 20,000 feet
Marty Martinez/Storyful
Now playing
01:33
Watch passengers inside Southwest plane

Story highlights

NEW: More than 3,400 delays to flights in United States on Saturday

After hours on the tarmac or waiting for bags, passengers have trouble rebooking

FAA says the computer is back in service as of 4 p.m. ET

CNN —  

The Federal Aviation Administration said Saturday it was working to “minimize impacts to travelers” after a computer glitch caused flight delays and cancellations along the East Coast.

Airports in the Washington and New York City areas were hit hard.

At Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, thousands of travelers wandered with strained expressions, looking for bags from the endless list of canceled flights. Other passengers were trying to rebook flights only to find they cannot get one for days.

Many people waited three hours just for their luggage to come back, and that followed waits of as long as five hours before they learned their flights weren’t taking off.

“It was a horrible travel day, but I think there was such relief that it wasn’t terror,” said Lisa Picard, who was trying to go from Reagan to Orlando with her husband and two children. “There were a lot of nice people at (the airport) and people were actually trying to help each other.”

The Picards were particularly unlucky. Their flight was about to push back – they even heard the safety talk – when they were told to sit and wait. After 90 minutes it looked like they were headed for another takeoff, but that was scrapped, too. After three hours, the flight was canceled.

The next available flight was Monday, so they loaded up the car and are driving the 850 miles to Orlando instead.

Just after 4 p.m. ET, the FAA tweeted that an automation system that experienced problems was back in service.

“The agency is working w/airlines to return to normal operations,” it tweeted.

The FAA never said what the problem was with the computer system that processes flight plans at the Washington Air Route Traffic Control Center in Leesburg, Virginia. The issue forced the FAA to temporarily halt departures for all planes at the D.C.-area’s three major airports, the agency said.

The repercussions, though, were felt nationwide.

American Airlines spokeswoman Laura Nedbal said the carrier called off 245 flights, 66 of which were at Reagan National.

Passengers at Reagan reported departure delays of several hours through late afternoon. According to the flight-tracking website flightaware.com, 25% of scheduled departures from Reagan were canceled.

The same percentage of flights were canceled at Baltimore/Washington International Airport.

Even a significant number of flights at Raleigh-Durham International, Richmond International and Myrtle Beach International Airports were delayed, though not all delays were due to the FAA computer issues.

Flight Aware said there were more than 3,400 delays and 640 cancellations involving flights originating in or flying to the United States on Saturday.

Arrivals diverted

There were plenty of problems for people trying to get to D.C. too.

Passenger Blake Jones from Colorado said he was missing meetings while stuck on a plane that had been diverted to Dulles International Airport. The flight was 30 minutes from landing at Reagan National when the pilot told passengers they were going to land elsewhere and wait until they could continue to their original destination.

“I didn’t know I was claustrophobic until now,” Blake, laughing at his predicament, told CNN after two hours – and counting – on the Dulles tarmac. He said the flight crew distributed water after about 90 minutes and passengers were still in good spirits.

“I’m just disappointed because I paid for a ticket to get to Reagan in a timely manner,” he said. “I had plans for the rest of the day, meetings scheduled that I had to cancel.”

He was flying Frontier, as was Ben Rosenfield. He was on his way from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Philadelphia to attend a wedding.

His flight was delayed two hours after all the passengers boarded. He didn’t make the ceremony but had a chance to make the reception, he said.

“In a nutshell, I’d say I feel frustrated, annoyed, and angry,” he said.

Long delays

The problem also affected planes that were in the sky at the time of the computer problem, with “high-altitude traffic” diverted around the center’s airspace, FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said.

Earlier Saturday, a map on flight-tracking website FlightRadar24.com seemed to illustrate the effect: Very few fights were shown over large parts of North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware.

More planes were in the airspace by 1:30 p.m., with planes finally departing Washington-area airports. But planes taking off from the Washington airspace were being kept at an elevation of 10,000 feet or lower, images from FlightRadar24.com showed.

Major airlines acknowledged the East Coast delays.

“We have to make last-minute adjustments to flight plans,” Delta Air Lines spokesman Morgan Durrant said. “Flights in and out of the three major D.C.-area airports may be delayed.”

“There is an issue with air traffic control impacting all airlines’ east coast flights. Please plan accordingly,” American Airlines said on Twitter.

CNN’s Rene Marsh, Mayra Cuevas, Kevin Bohn and Sarah Jorgensen contributed to this report.