By David Zahniser
9:48 AM EDT, June 22, 2013
Southwest Airlines planes began departing their gates late Friday, more than two hours after a companywide computer glitch caused flights to be grounded throughout the western United States.
Planes began taking off about 10:30 p.m., said company spokesman Brad Hawkins. The company estimated that 250 flights had been affected by a shutdown in the computer software used to dispatch flights.
Hawkins said the airline is relying on a slower backup system.
“We sincerely appreciate everyone's patience as we work diligently now to get people where they are supposed to be,” Hawkins said in an email.
The system shutdown began about 8 p.m. Pacific time. Hawkins said the airline could still cancel some of its flights, possibly in Orange County, due to noise curfews there.
Southwest had 3,400 flights scheduled on Friday. For much of the evening, many of the company's passengers found themselves unsure if the flights they were already on would take off at all.
Finance manager Scott Williams said that by 10:30 p.m., he had been sitting in a Southwest plane at LA/Ontario International Airport for nearly three hours.
At one point, Williams, of Napa, said half the passengers were told to get off the plane, only to return soon afterward.
"It's been a long day," he said.
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