British Airways is working to restore its computer systems after a power failure caused major disruption for thousands of passengers worldwide.
The airline is “closer to full operational capacity” after an IT power cut resulted in mass flight cancellations at Heathrow and Gatwick. Thousands of passengers remain displaced, with large numbers sleeping overnight in terminals.
BA has not explained the cause of the power problem.
So far on Monday, 13 short-haul flights at Heathrow have been cancelled. Heathrow advised affected BA passengers not to travel to the airport unless their flights had been rebooked, or were scheduled to take off today.
Passengers on cancelled flights have been told to use the BA website to rebook. Chief executive Alex Cruz has posted videos on Twitter apologising for what he called a “horrible time for passengers” and made daily updates videos on YouTube.
Cancellations and delays affected thousands of passengers at both Heathrow and Gatwick on Saturday. All flights operated from Gatwick on Sunday but more than a third of services from Heathrow – mostly to short-haul destinations – were cancelled.
Passengers slept on yoga mats handed out by the airline as conference rooms were opened to provide somewhere more comfortable to rest.
What went wrong at BA?
BA blames a power cut, but a corporate IT expert said it should not have caused “even a flicker of the lights” in the data-centre.
Even if the power could not be restored, the airline’s Disaster Recovery Plan should have whirred into action. But that will have depended in part on veteran staff with knowledge of the complex patchwork of systems built up over the years.
Many of those people may have left when much of the IT operation was outsourced to India.
One theory of the IT expert, who does not wish to be named, is that when the power came back on the systems were unusable because the data was unsynchronised. In other words the airline was suddenly faced with a mass of conflicting records of passengers, aircraft and baggage movements – all the complex logistics of modern air travel.
BA is liable to reimburse thousands of passengers for refreshments and hotel expenses, and travel industry commentators have suggested the cost to the company – part of Europe’s largest airline group IAG – could run into tens of millions of pounds.
Customers displaced by flight cancellations can claim up to £200 a day for a room (based on two people sharing), £50 for transport between the hotel and airport, and £25 a day per adult for meals and refreshments.
The airline said there was no evidence the computer failure was the result of a cyber-attack. It denied claims by the GMB union that the problem could be linked to the company outsourcing its IT work.
Gatwick Airport said it was continuing to advise customers travelling with British Airways to check the status of their flight with the airline before travelling to the airport.