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Tuesday,  March 5, 2024 5:48 AM 

Cyber attack on Boeing subsidiary behind Sunwing outage

Cyber attack on Boeing subsidiary behind Sunwing outage
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

This story was updated on Friday, November 4 at 8:42 a.m. EST

Sunwing’s system outage on Wednesday (Nov. 2) involved a different third-party provider than the one in April when a similar technical issue occurred, PAX has learned.

Seven months ago, the provider that Sunwing uses for its check-in system was compromised due to a data security breach.

The incident caused havoc for travellers, resulting in a network-wide outage that lasted several days and, in some cases, left customers stranded in destinations.

The company targeted by the cyber attack was Illinois-based Airline Choice, which provides airline check-in and passenger security solutions. 

Sunwing's network outage this week, however, involved a company owned by Boeing.

In a statement to PAX Thursday evening, Sunwing confirmed that its third-party provider, Jeppesen, which offers navigational information, operations planning tools, flight planning products and software, was experiencing technical issues with its products.

The glitch caused delays with both northbound and southbound Sunwing flights this week. 

And it appears Sunwing wasn’t alone – the outage hit “multiple carriers in North America,” the Toronto-based tour operator wrote on its Twitter account on Nov. 2, the day the system failed.

Another cyber attack 

On Friday (Nov. 4), it was revealed that Jeppesen's technical problem was also related to a cyber attack, according to a report from Bloomberg

“Our subsidiary, Jeppesen, experienced a cyber incident affecting certain flight planning products and services,” Boeing spokesman Yukui Wang told the outlet in an email on Friday. 

“There has been some flight planning disruption, but at this time we have no reason to believe that this incident poses a threat to aircraft or flight safety.”

As of Friday morning, Jeppesen had a red banner posted on its corporate homepage, announcing the disruption.

“We are working to restore functionality as soon as possible,” the company wrote, noting that phone support was unavailable at the present time.

Receipt and processing of so-called notice to air missions, which inform pilots and airlines about potential hazards during flights, have also been impacted, Jeppesen wrote.  

Operations normalizing, but expect delays

Meanwhile, Sunwing's operations are now normalizing, the company announced Thursday, but customers can still expect delays as the airline works on recovery flights and resumes schedules “as soon as possible.”

“We encourage customers to continue checking their flight status on for the most up-to-date information on travel times and transfers,” the company wrote on its website.  

Customers in destination can also chat live with a Sunwing Virtual Concierge in the Sunwing app or connect with their local Sunwing representative who can provide further assistance.

“As our teams work tirelessly on securing additional planes for all affected passengers and resuming regular flight schedules as soon as possible, flight delays are expected to continue,” Sunwing’s media team told PAX.

“Sunwing has employed an all-hands-on-deck approach at all airports affected by this outage to ensure customers can return to their planned travels as quickly as possible.”

The tour operator has also reminded customers to direct questions to Sunwing Cares.

“We sympathize with our customers and understand their disappointment as they anxiously await to go on their vacations or return home,” Sunwing told PAX. “We are doing everything we can to keep them up to date and comfortable in the meantime.”

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