BA tries to get back in air after IT outage, PR disaster
LONDON — British Airways was operating most of its flights from London’s two largest airports yesterday after a computer system failure stranded thousands of passengers over a holiday weekend and turned into a public relations disaster.
The airline planned to run more than 95% of flights from London Heathrow and Gatwick yesterday, chief executive Alex Cruz told Sky News.
BA had been forced to cancel all its flights from Heathrow, Europe’s busiest airport, and Gatwick on Saturday after a power supply problem disrupted its operations worldwide and also hit its call centres and website.
The disruption had continued on Sunday. Some stranded passengers curled up under blankets on the floor or slumped on luggage trolleys, images that played prominently in the media at the start of a week when schools were on holiday. “Apologies all well and good but not enough. BA has lost another loyal customer #disgraceful,” tweeted Tom Callway, who had been due to fly to Budapest.
Cruz said the origins of the problem, which also hit passengers trying to fly into Britain, had been a power surge on Saturday morning that affected messaging across BA’s systems.
He said there was no evidence of a cyber attack and denied a union claim that the outsourcing of IT work to India had played a part in the failure.
The company was left counting the cost of the disruption, both in terms of a oneoff impact to its profit and the longer term damage to its reputation.
Spanishlisted shares of parent company IAG, which also owns carriers Iberia, Aer Lingus and Vueling, dropped 2,5% yesterday after the outage. The Londonlisted shares did not trade because of a public holiday.
Flight compensation website Flightright.com said that with around 800 flights cancelled at Gatwick and Heathrow on Saturday and Sunday, BA was looking at having to pay around €61 million(R885 million) in compen sation under EU rules. That does not include the cost of reimbursing customers for hotel stays.
Ireland’s Ryanair seized the marketing opportunity, tweeting “Should have flown Ryanair” with a picture of the ‘Computer says no’ sketch from the TV series Little Britain to poke fun at BA.
The GMB union said that BA’s IT systems had shortcomings after they made a number of staff redundant and shifted their work to India in 2016.
“This could have all been avoided. BA in 2016 made hundreds of dedicated and loyal IT staff redundant and outsourced the work to India,” Mick Rix, GMB national officer for aviation, said. Cruz rejected the union criticism. “They’ve all been local issues around a local data centre, which has been managed and fixed by local resources,” he said.
“This could have all been avoided. BA in 2016 made hundreds of dedicated and loyal IT staff redundant and outsourced the work to India.”