BA tries to get back in air af­ter IT out­age, PR dis­as­ter

The Witness - - NEWS -

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.”

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