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United passengers stranded for hours by computer glitch

In yet another major technical problem at United Airlines this year, a “computer issue” delayed flights and stranded passengers for hours across the country on Thursday.

The airline first tweeted about the glitch mid-morning, then said the system was back up about 30 minutes later. There was no explanation about the nature of the problem or what caused it.

The outage affected “some mainline flights,” said United spokesman Charles Hobart in an email. United Express flights were not impacted, he added. Calls to United seeking more details were not immediately returned.

There was no impact on air traffic, an FAA spokeswoman said. There were no ground stops imposed, unlike in August when a computer glitch at the carrier prompted those measures for inbound United flights at Newark, San Francisco and Houston airports. Any delays experienced by United passengers on Thursday were an airline issue, not an air traffic control issue, the FAA said.

Frustrated fliers immediately took to social media to vent their frustration.

@united thank you so much for having the worst computer system on the planet. I really enjoy sitting in tiny seat on tarmac. #unitedsucks,” tweeted Jason Magyar.

“Was saying yesterday this has been my longest no-fly period since 2005. Now stuck on tarmac for >hour. All United computer systems down,” tweeted Sten Tamkivi.

“Hey @united. Been stuck at IAH for 3hrs now. Crews been great, but hey, time to (serve) some of those breakfast sandwiches,” tweeted Larkin Stallings. (IAH is the airport code for George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston.)

Joe Brancatelli, who runs – a website for business travelers – said he started hearing from grounded passengers within minutes of the start of the outage. He believes this latest glitch is more fallout from the merger of United and Continental Airlines .

“I think it’s a reminder that this has been a merger from hell,” he said.

“They’ve mashed together two airlines to create the world’s largest airline simply without the scalability that you need. This has not been a merger that put passengers first or systems first.”

Thursday’s glitch is at least the third major computer problem at United this year.

In August, a system-wide network outage took the airline offline for hours. The problem involved the "SHARES" system, which affects things like reservations, ticketing and check-ins, and is critical for boarding passengers. The system was carried over from Continental Airlines.

There were also glitches when United adopted the reservation platform in March. Problems with the company's airport check-in kiosks meant customers had instead to line up to see service agents

United and Continental merged in 2010.