British Airways looks to get back on track after IT failure
Flights normalised says airline amid damage to brand
British Airways flights connecting the UAE with London Heathrow have normalised after an IT failure disrupted hundreds of flights, according to the airline yesterday.
The early scheduled flight to Dubai International arrived on time yesterday, with the night flight expected also to be on time. The two Heathrow-bound flights left Dubai after 20-minute delays yesterday morning.
At Abu Dhabi International Airport, all BA flights are operating as per the normal schedule, as of Sunday. One flight from Abu Dhabi to London Heathrow was cancelled on Saturday. There is one BA flight a day to and from the capital’s airport. “At Heathrow, we operated virtually all our scheduled long-haul flights, though the knock-on effects of Saturday’s disruption resulted in a reduced short-haul programme,” a BA spokeswoman told The National yesterday.
“As our IT systems move closer to full operational capacity, we will again run a full schedule at Gatwick on Monday and intend to operate a full long-haul schedule and a high proportion of our short-haul programme at Heathrow.”
The UK carrier has scrapped almost 600 flights since Saturday because of a computer failure and is still processing thousands of passengers who missed flights or lost their luggage.
The airline is also working on reuniting passengers with lost baggage.
The major IT systems failure severely affected BA operations worldwide on Saturday, stranding passengers and resulting in delayed baggage.
The IT systems of airlines come into play at every step, including ticket booking, checkin and boarding, while technology is updated periodically to streamline operations and cut costs.
“New technology will be utilised to increase efficiency and simplify the operations,” said the BA annual report released in December. The step is part of the strategy to reduce costs over the next five years, it said.
Last year, BA reported an operating profit before exceptional items of £1.47 billion (Dh6.94bn), up by 16.5 per cent over the previous year at £1.26bn.
Cost-cutting last year related to the IT system has come under fresh scrutiny after the failure over the weekend.
“Coming after a spate of other issues, the bad PR and potential reputational aftermath will likely hit future revenue beyond the likely material impact,” wrote Damian Brewer, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets. “It is tempting but increasingly questionable to view this as a one-off.”
BA’s chief executive, Alex Cruz, said he was “profusely sorry” for the disruption but it has done little to quell the strong reaction as images of thousands of stranded passengers coursed through social media.
The disruption coincided with the start of the annual end-of-May Bank Holiday weekend in the UK, as well as the three-day Memorial Day weekend regarded as the unofficial start of summer in the US. It is the latest mess to hit the embattled global aviation industry. This year alone, airlines have been caught by United Airlines’ dragging fiasco, mass cancellations at Delta Air Lines, the US’s laptop ban and attempted restrictions on travel from majority-Muslim countries.
It’s also not the first problem involving British Airways. In September, a computer network failure brought down British Airways’ check-in system, causing worldwide service delays, while earlier this month, London Gatwick airport reported problems with its baggage-sorting system.
This weekend’s outage could cost BA £82 million, according to Goodbody Stockbrokers, which estimates that about 1,200 flights were affected and that 171,000 passengers qualify for damages. That would reduce operating profit at IAG, BA’s parent, in 2017 by about 2.7 per cent, Goodbody estimates.
“British Airways’ IT failure over the weekend is clearly a PR nightmare,” Mark Simpson, an analyst at Goodbody, said in a note. It will require “a real focus in terms of handling customer’s complaints and compensations claims in order to rebuild trust and confidence with the public.”
Spanish-listed shares of IAG, which also owns carriers Iberia and Aer Lingus, dropped by 2.5 per cent yesterday.
Coming after a spate of other issues, the bad PR and potential reputational aftermath will hit future revenue beyond the likely material impact Damian Brewer analyst with RBC Capital Markets
At Heathrow yesterday, BA operated nearly all of its long-haul flights but had a reduced short-haul programme.