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Transportation Department’s Fix for Airlines’ Tech Problems is To Do Nothing

Delta passengers stand in line as the carrier slogged through day two of its recovery from a global computer outage, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2016, in Salt Lake City.

Delta passengers stand in line as the carrier slogged through day two of its recovery from a global computer outage, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2016, in Salt Lake City. // Rick Bowmer/AP

From the U.S. to U.K. to India and elsewhere, technical failures have been plaguing the commercial aviation industry in recent years. We’ve counted 24 major disruptions in the U.S. since 2015. Yet, the Transportation Department has no plans to try regulate the industry into technical resiliency.

A spokesperson for the DOT told Quartz the agency is of the opinion that the high cost of glitches is the only needed deterrent to prevent future outages.

“Airlines are already highly motivated to avoid situations like Delta is experiencing,” the agency said in a emailed statement to Quartz, referring to Delta’s problems stemming from a technical outage Aug. 8. According to the DOT, the combined incentives to avoid losing revenue, keep performance metrics high and have happy customers are “likely a more effective incentive than detailed regulations concerning the carriers’ IT systems.”

Nationwide, technical failures have struck all of the largest U.S. airlines at least once in the last two years.

Other than systems that are directly related to aviation safety the department “does not inspect or regulate airlines’ IT systems,” according to DOT’s statement.

Nonetheless, the issues have attracted the attention of members of the Congress. Two senators, Edward Markey, D-Mass., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., have sent letters to U.S. airlines requesting information about what the carriers are doing to prevent future outages and how it deals with them when they do. The letter says the glitches “can harm our economy, which relies on a safe and efficient aviation industry to stay competitive.”

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