EXCLUSIVE: Delta CEO reveals cause of massive outage that stranded thousands

ATLANTA — In his first and only TV interview following Monday’s meltdown of Delta Airlines’ computer systems, CEO Ed Bastian spoke candidly with Channel 2 Action News about the apocalyptic computer crash that grounded the world's second largest carrier worldwide.

"It was dramatic. We'd never done this before," Bastian told Channel 2 investigative reporter Aaron Diamant.

"Is this a worst case scenario for you?" Diamant asked Bastian.

"Apart from an actual loss of a hull and human lives, absolutely. We've never experienced this level of outage before in our history," Bastian said. %



Operations are now nearly back to normal 72 hours after an electrical system failure, from a small fire, caused a power outage at Delta's main operations center and knocked critical computer systems offline.


Thousands of canceled and long-delayed flights left passengers and flight crews stranded around the globe.

"We own it. I own it. I'm personally responsible for this happening and I'll personally make sure this doesn't happen again," Bastian said.

A key step is sorting out why the backup systems didn't work.

"I have that same question I've asked our people, believe me, many times in the last two days. We don't have the full answer to that yet," Bastian said.

Bastian said getting it could take weeks. Meantime, he spoke directly to critics who've complained of poor communication with passengers during the crisis.

"On the communication front, they're right. We had no ability to communicate with them. Our systems were down. We had hours when we couldn't communicate with ourselves much less communicate with our customers,” Bastian told Diamant.

Diamant asked Bastian how he plans to rebuild trust with frustrated customers who lost hours of personal and professional time.

"Well, we're going to do it through our actions," Bastian said.

Not everyone happy with refunds

Delta Air Lines issued $200 credit vouchers to all passengers on canceled flights and those delayed more than three hours due to Monday morning's catastrophic computer meltdown that left tens of thousands of passengers stranded in Atlanta and around the world.

"So we've effectively given people their money back. Some people have paid more, some people have paid less, but that was the average price of the one-way ticket that we disrupted, so we gave people their money back," said Delta CEO Ed Bastian.

Bastian told Channel 2 investigative reporter Aaron Diamant he expects some to question the airline's math.

"I'm confident there will be people who will criticize certain aspects of what we do, but we've done our very best," Bastian told Diamant.

Some critics, both passengers and advocates, have said that the $200 wasn't enough.

"We weren't required to refund the tickets. We went out there, I'm unaware of any airline that's ever done anything like this immediately in terms of giving people, in essence, the full value of credit back onto the airline," Bastian said.

This is just the first step to ease the swelling surrounding Delta's big black eye.

"At the end of the day, it's going to be our ability to stand up and deliver perfect completion, perfect reliability, or as near perfect as you can in this business," Bastian said.

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