British Airways Chaos Nears End

The British Airways chaos that stranded 75,000 passengers over a holiday weekend is nearing its end. The airline had been forced to cancel all its flights from Heathrow, Europe’s busiest airport, and Gatwick on Saturday and the disruptions continued on Sunday. Flight compensation website Flightright.com estimated that around 800 flights were canceled at Gatwick and Heathrow on Saturday and Sunday.

The chaos started when a power supply problem disrupted the airline’s operations worldwide, including its flight, baggage and communication systems. The issue also took down its call centers and website. The power surge was so strong, it rendered the back-up systems ineffective. The issue also affected passengers trying to fly into Britain.

The airline said on Monday that everything was returning to normal. On Monday, the airline is planning to run more than 95 percent of flights from London Heathrow and Gatwick. The company expects for only a handful of short-haul flights to be canceled.

British Airways said it would take steps to ensure there was no repeat of the computer system failure. Chief Executive Alex Cruz said, “Once the disruption is over, we will carry out an exhaustive investigation into what caused this incident, and take measures to ensure it never happens again.”

The GMB union claims that the problems could have been avoided if British Airways hadn’t outsourced its IT work to India in 2016. However, Cruz rejected the union criticism, saying, “They’ve all been local issues around a local data center, which has been managed and fixed by local resources.”

The total cost of the disruption remains unknown. Flightright.com estimated that British Airways would have to pay around 61 million euros ($68 million) in compensation under EU rules. That figure does not include the cost of reimbursing customers for hotel stays. Cruz said that the airline would fully honor its compensation obligations.

The longer term damage to its reputation may prove to be even more costly. The disruption turned into a public relations disaster. Images of stranded passengers curled up under blankets on the floor or slumped on luggage trolleys were featured prominently online and in newspapers.

This is not the first time large numbers of passengers have been left stranded by airlines’ computer system issues. Last month, Germany’s Lufthansa and Air France suffered a global system outage which briefly prevented them from boarding passengers. Delta Air Lines ended up having to cancel thousands of flights, and delay many others, last August after an outage hit its computer systems.

 

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