Computer outage prompts British Airways to cancel flights from London
A computer outage crippled one of the world’s busiest flight hubs Saturday, forcing British Airways to cancel all flights out of two London airports, leaving terminals in chaos and passengers stranded.
“Today, we have experienced a major IT system failure that is causing very severe disruptions to our flight operations worldwide,” British Airways chief executive Alex Cruz said in a video message, as reports spread of errors on its website, ticket machines, baggage terminals and technical infrastructure.
Cruz wore a yellow safety vest as he spoke near Heathrow Europe’s busiest airport and major hub — where baggage piled on the floor and gate information had to be written on a whiteboard. British Airways canceled all departures at Heathrow and at nearby Gatwick Airport.
Flights were supposed to resume Saturday evening, but the airline later announced that none of its planes would leave the airports before Sunday.
One passenger told the Associated Press she couldn’t transfer to another flight because “they can’t bring up our details.”
Although only British Airways departures from the two airports were directly affected, a cascade of problems rippled around the world. For example, the BBC reported, planes trying to land at Heathrow, which serves about 200,000 passengers a day, were unable to park because of jets clogging the gates. One passenger said he sat on his plane in Heathrow at for 90 minutes and that his pilot explained the technical problem was “catastrophic.”
Cruz said a power supply problem is believed to have triggered the crisis. A British Airways spokeswoman told The Washington Post that “there’s no evidence it’s a cyberattack.”
A trade union blamed it on layoffs and outsourcing of technology jobs. “This could have all been avoided,” Mick Rix, national officer for aviation at the GMB union, told the Associated Press. “We can only feel genuinely sorry for the tens of thousands of passengers who are stranded at airports.”
It’s not the first time British Airways has suffered a technology meltdown. The company’s website and online check-in system went down for at least seven hours last month, the Register reported. And glitches caused widespread British Airways delays at the same airport on at least two occasions last year, according to Reuters.