… airline hoping to run a ‘near normal schedule’
Facts have emerged on why British Airways, the United Kingdom flag carrier, was forced to cancel all flights out of its London Heathrow and Gatwick hubs on Saturday after an IT meltdown over the Memorial Day holiday weekend.
CEO Alex Cruz took to social media in the afternoon to update passengers, saying that the airline had experienced “a major IT systems failure” that affected both operations and checkin.
“We are working hard to get our customers who were due to fly today onto the next available flights over the course of the rest of the weekend,” the airline said in a statement on its website. “The system outage has also affected our call centres and our website but we will update customers as soon as we are able to.”
British Airways is the largest carrier in the UK based on its fleet size. At Heathrow, where over 200,000 passengers are served each day, BA operates the majority of flights and runs the entirety of Terminal 5. A good portion of those passengers were stranded Sunday as British Airways struggled to reaccommodate passengers both there and inbound into the UK.
One Twitter user captured a massive customer service line at Heathrow, illustrating how operations had come to a standstill.
Have been at Heathrow T5 since 9am this morning, absolute mayhem and not seen a single @British_Airways staff member to be seen to help!
— Jacqueline Gunn (@tinkgunn) May 27, 2017
Another passenger stationed in the British Airways lounge in Terminal 5 noted that the airline had taken away all of the liquor, perhaps concerned about a passenger uprising later in the day.
— Pixie Points (@pixie_points) May 27, 2017
Given the nature of the IT breakdown and the volume of flights affected, the cancellations are expected to overflow into the rest of the holiday weekend. Already, partner carriers codesharing with British Airways are sending messages to passengers and encouraging them to double check their itineraries. For its part, the airline has promised refunds to all affected, saying on its website that “those unable to fly will be offered a full refund.” Even for those who do fly though, it may be a few days until an open seat is found.
The airline said Saturday evening it is hoping to run a “near normal schedule” from Gatwick and most flights from Heathrow after the global IT crash caused chaos at airports.
A BA spokesman said: “We are continuing to work hard to restore all of our IT systems and are aiming to operating a near normal schedule at Gatwick and the majority of services from Heathrow on Sunday.
“We are extremely sorry for the huge disruption caused to customers throughout Saturday and understand how frustrating their experiences will have been.”
The outage came as thousands of people hoped leave the UK for Bank Holiday celebrations, with numerous travellers taking to social media to vent their frustration at the cancellations.
However, experts have predicted that the disruption could last days while British Airways deals with the backlog of passengers.
Air industry consultant John Strickland said: “There’s a massive knock-on effect.
“Customers and from the airline’s point of view – manpower, dealing with the backlog of aircraft out of position, parking spaces for the aircraft – it’s a challenge and a choreographic nightmare.”