Did BA sys­tem over­heat in hot weather af­ter air­line laid off key en­gi­neers?

Daily Mail - - News - s.poul­ter@dai­ly­mail.co.uk By Sean Poul­ter Con­sumer Af­fairs Ed­i­tor

POOR main­te­nance and re­cent warm weather may have trig­gered the dis­as­trous Bank Hol­i­day melt­down in the Bri­tish Air­ways com­puter sys­tem.

A de­ci­sion to make key main­te­nance staff re­dun­dant – cou­pled with over­heat­ing com­put­ers – are likely to be fac­tors in the fi­asco, say union lead­ers.

The black­out of a BA com­puter data cen­tre at Heathrow and the failure of a back-up sys­tem meant flights across the world were grounded.

As a re­sult, some 75,000 peo­ple had their flights can­celled and many more suf­fered long de­lays.

Reper­cus­sions are still be­ing felt to­day, with thou­sands of peo­ple yet to be re­united with their lug­gage.

Yes­ter­day, wor­ried investors wiped more than £500 mil­lion off the stock mar­ket value of par­ent com­pany IAG, al­though it re­cov­ered most of this dur­ing the day.

The com­pany also faces a com­pen­sa­tion and re­fund bill that could reach £150 mil­lion.

Span­ish chief ex­ec­u­tive Alex Cruz has blamed a power surge at a Heathrow data cen­tre – essen­tially an air-con­di­tioned ware­house hold­ing banks of com­put­ers – for the col­lapse of the IT sys­tem on Saturday morn­ing.

He said a back-up sys­tem that should have res­cued the sit­u­a­tion failed to come on­line for an un­known rea­son.

How­ever, Mr Cruz’s ex­pla­na­tion has been called into ques­tion by com­pa­nies sup­ply­ing elec­tric­ity to Heathrow,

‘Re­dun­dan­cies came back to bite them’

who say they have no record of a power surge. The GMB union be­lieves the real cause was cost-cut­ting, lead­ing to a failure of main­te­nance at the data cen­tre and a lack of staff to re-boot the equip­ment once it failed.

One the­ory is that the com­put­ers over­heated be­cause the air con­di­tion­ing strug­gled to cope with the re­cent high tem­per­a­tures.

The Daily Mail has learned that a small team of ex­pe­ri­enced en­gi­neers re­spon­si­ble for main­tain­ing BA’s data cen­tres and back-up sys­tems were made re­dun­dant last year.

They were part of a group of some 700 com­puter and IT staff let go fol­low­ing a de­ci­sion to save money by out­sourc­ing work to In­dia and the pri­vate firm Tata Con­sul­tancy Ser­vices (TCS).

GMB national avi­a­tion of­fi­cer Mick Rix said there was a his­tory of main­te­nance and over­heat­ing prob­lems at the BA data cen­tres.

He added: ‘ At the top of the back-up fa­cil­ity are ma­jor air­con­di­tion­ing sys­tems which keep the electrics and com­put­ers cool.

‘Be­cause of the high tem­per­a­tures last year, staff were hav­ing to hose the top of the build­ing down to keep it cool. The fact that was nec­es­sary is ev­i­dence of se­ri­ous un­der-in­vest­ment.

‘BA has been busy get­ting rid of peo­ple, in­clud­ing peo­ple work­ing in data cen­tre main­te­nance who have been do­ing an ex­tremely vi­tal job, but it has come back to bite them.’

Mr Rix said the blame for the fi­asco should be put at the door of BA’s par­ent com­pany, IAG, which is run by Wil­lie Walsh, and also owns Ibe­ria, Vuel­ing and Aer Lin­gus.

‘Over the last year and a half, the com­pany has been go­ing through a suc­ces­sion of re­dun­dan­cies and cuts. That has had a mas­sive role to play in the prob­lems we have seen over the bank hol­i­day week­end.

‘The Bri­tish Air­ways brand is be­ing trashed which could have se­ri­ous long-term con­se­quences. No-one wants to see that.’

He added: ‘The truth is that it is not a Bri­tish com­pany any more. It is pre­tend­ing to be a Bri­tish com­pany and is trad­ing on Bri­tain’s brand.’ Theresa May was asked yes­ter­day if BA was wor­thy of be­ing the coun­try’s flag car­rier.

She said: ‘It is up to them to sort their IT out and en­sure they are able to pro­vide the ser­vices peo­ple ex­pect them to pro­vide as Bri­tish Air­ways.

‘I recog­nise the con­sid­er­able dis­rup­tion that it caused for all those in­di­vid­u­als hop­ing to get away for their hol­i­day or break and found them­selves stuck in air­ports and un­able to travel. We all feel for those peo­ple.

‘It’s im­por­tant that Bri­tish Air­ways has a com­pen­sa­tion scheme for peo­ple who were trav­el­ling.’

BA was un­able to com­ment on the claims made by the GMB union about main­te­nance prob­lems and staff shortages. In­stead, the air­line con­tin­ued to in­sist the prob­lems were caused by a power surge.

This is at odds with ev­i­dence from the National Grid, SSE and UK Power Net­works, who are re­spon­si­ble for elec­tric­ity in the Heathrow area and said they were un­aware of a power surge. Heathrow air­port, which has its own pri­vate net­work, said there was no power surge on its sys­tem.

A BA spokesman said: ‘As we have said the power sup­ply is­sue caused the col­lapse of our IT sys­tems. It was not an IT failure. The data cen­tre is manned by UK based staff.’

He said pri­vate con­trac­tors at TCS were in­volved in help­ing to re­store BA’s com­puter sys­tems.

Wait­ing game: Thou­sands of pas­sen­gers still have not been re­united with their lug­gage

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.