WISH YOU WEREN’T HERE!

BA meltdown hits 70,000 ++ Heathrow ground staff still set to walk out ++ Now Ryanair pi­lots to strike in sum­mer of hell for hol­i­day­mak­ers

Daily Mail - - Front Page - By James Sal­mon, Susie Coen and Christian Gysin

HOL­I­DAY­MAK­ERS were fac­ing air­port mis­ery last night amid crippling IT fail­ures and the threat of strikes. The chaos be­gan yes­ter­day when a check-in sys­tem meltdown hit tens of

thou­sands of Bri­tish Airways pas­sen­gers at Heathrow and Gatwick.

More than 400 flights were can­celled or de­layed be­fore the is­sue was fixed, leav­ing BA fac­ing a £16mil­lion com­pen­sa­tion bill and knock- on dis­rup­tion that could con­tinue to­day. Ryanair pi­lots – who are al­ready paid up to £180,000 a year – added to the agony last night by announcing plans to strike later this month in a dis­pute over pay and ben­e­fits.

The walk­out – or­ches­trated by pi­lots’ union Balpa – is sched­uled to go ahead on Au­gust 22 and Au­gust 23, the height of the sum­mer hol­i­days. It is set to over­lap with a sep­a­rate strike by around 4,000 Heathrow work­ers, in­clud­ing se­cu­rity staff and en­gi­neers, which is due to go ahead on Au­gust 23 and 24.

At the same time, pas­sen­gers are still fac­ing the threat of a strike by Bri­tish Airways pi­lots. Their union is still locked in talks with the car­rier over a pay dis­pute that could yet trigger a walk­out later this month.

The un­rest threat­ens fur­ther mis­ery for hol­i­day­mak­ers at one of the busiest times of the year, when tens of thou­sands of fam­i­lies are head­ing abroad. Last night, Tory MP Steve Dou­ble, a mem­ber of the com­mons Trans­port com­mit­tee, crit­i­cised unions for wors­en­ing the dis­rup­tion. ‘Unions should not be hold­ing hol­i­day­mak­ers to ran­som to ex­tract bet­ter pay deals for their mem­bers,’ he said.

The tor­ment be­gan at 6am for thou­sands of fam­i­lies at Heathrow, Gatwick and Lon­don City yes­ter­day when Bri­tish Airways’ on­line check-in sys­tem crashed. As staff were forced to process bag­gage man­u­ally, huge queues built up. Pas­sen­gers were also un­able to check in on­line.

By the time BA an­nounced the prob­lem had been sorted around ten hours later, around 127 flights had been can­celled and 300 were de­layed, af­fect­ing 70,000 hol­i­day­mak­ers. The IT glitch caused knock- on dis­rup­tion at air­ports around the UK, as well as far afield as Ja­pan, In­dia and the US. BA now faces a po­ten­tial £16mil­lion com­pen­sa­tion bill, with short-haul pas­sen­gers el­i­gi­ble for a pay­out of up to £230 un­der EU rules.

Some pas­sen­gers de­scribed scenes of ‘bed­lam’ at Heathrow’s Ter­mi­nal 5. There were also com

‘Hold­ing fam­i­lies to ran­som’

plaints of a ‘pa­thetic’ lack of in­for­ma­tion, and a short­age of BA staff on hand to help.

To make mat­ters worse, Gatwick pas­sen­gers were also hit by can­cel­la­tions or de­lays on the Gatwick Ex­press rail ser­vice from Lon­don Vic­to­ria. Naomi Leach of Which? Travel, said: ‘This ap­par­ent BA sys­tems fail­ure is an­other kick in the teeth for trav­ellers who are likely to have spent weeks wor­ry­ing about whether their hol­i­day flights will take off.’ Pas­sen­gers were of­fered the chance to re-book their flights or ap­ply for a re­fund.

But some fam­i­lies des­per­ate to get away for their sum­mer break paid hun­dreds of pounds on flights with other air­lines, mean­ing they could be left heav­ily out of pocket.

BA has been plagued by pre­vi­ous IT is­sues. In 2017 a power out­age at Heathrow stranded tens of thou­sands of pas­sen­gers over the May bank hol­i­day week­end. The air­line is also fac­ing a record £183mil­lion fine af­ter hack­ers stole the per­sonal de­tails of up to half a mil­lion pas­sen­gers last year.

Chief ex­ec­u­tive Alex Cruz did not make a pub­lic apol­ogy yes­ter­day, but was un­der­stood to be work­ing all day at Heathrow to help deal with the prob­lem. A BA spokesman said: We apol­o­gise to all our cus­tomers caught up in the dis­rup­tion, and ap­pre­ci­ate how frus­trat­ing their ex­pe­ri­ence has been. Mean­while, the an­nounce­ment of strike ac­tion by Ryanair pi­lots only added to the frus­tra­tion. Along with this month’s planned walk­outs, more are planned for Septem­ber 2 and 4.

Balpa will not say how many pi­lots are in­volved, but the union is un­der­stood to rep­re­sent around half of the air­line’s fly­ers.

The threat of a sep­a­rate pi­lots’ strike at BA will hang over hun­dreds of thou­sands of Bri­tons who have booked flights with the air­line this sum­mer. The protest in­volv­ing around 4,000 work­ers at Heathrow, in­clud­ing se­cu­rity staff and en­gi­neers, will still go ahead if they re­ject an im­proved pay of­fer. A walk­out sched­uled for Mon­day and Tues­day was suspended.

One of the world’s big­gest air­lines, BA made record prof­its of al­most £2bil­lion last year, fly­ing more than 145,000 pas­sen­gers a day. The car­rier, in its cen­te­nary year, em­ploys around 4,500 pi­lots – with cap­tains paid an av­er­age of £167,000.

Grounded: Gatwick pas­sen­gers, top, and de­par­ture board at Heathrow yes­ter­day

HEATHROW Left: Go back home, BA tells its cus­tomers. Above: Grim-faced pas­sen­gers, many of them with nowhere to even sit down,

Go­ing nowhere: Dozens of pas­sen­gers wait in queues af­ter IT meltdown yes­ter­day

HEATHROW

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