Frequent fliers know that feeling well, particularly as air travel has roared back from pandemic lows: Their flight has been delayed, and then they receive little information about when — or if — it will take off, stoking feelings of anger and hopelessness.
But the Federal Aviation Administration system failure that caused more than 9,000 delays on Wednesday led to a slightly different dynamic for the frustrated passengers: This time, they didn’t have the airline to blame.
“Because it was a systemwide, nationwide thing, there was nowhere to direct your outrage, so everybody was being really helpful,” said Jess McIntosh, a political consultant whose American Airlines flight was delayed in Albany, N.Y. “And nobody was yelling at the T.S.A. agents.”
The outage that halted takeoffs for about 90 minutes on Wednesday morning was caused by the failure of a system that the F.A.A. uses to send timely safety alerts to pilots. Flights began to resume at around 9 a.m., the F.A.A. said, but the effects continued to snarl air traffic throughout the day.
Paul Hudson, the president of FlyersRights.org, which represents airline consumers, called the shutdown “shocking” and potentially avoidable.
“The fact that this could happen at all shows the real vulnerabilities to the computer system that the F.A.A. operates,” he said. The F.A.A. said it was still investigating the cause of the disruption to the NOTAM — short for Notice to Air Mission — alert system. There was no evidence of a cyberattack, said Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary.
Mr. Hudson said that while the cause of the disruption is still unknown, it is clear that the F.A.A. needs to update its computer system and conduct more “stress tests,” such as drills conducted at airports and by airlines to prepare for emergencies.
In terminals across the country, just weeks after mass cancellations by Southwest Airlines left thousands of travelers stranded, many passengers were sanguine about yet another chaotic day for air travel.
Bettina Inclán, who was traveling to Houston from Washington, said her United pilot kept everyone on her delayed flight informed and calm.
“The entire United team did really well in setting expectations, being honest on what they knew and didn’t know, and what it all meant,” she said.
As Sara Hole, of Stamford, Conn., and her fiancé, Drew Tomlinson, waited by their gate at Newark Liberty International Airport on Wednesday morning, they got the…