British Airways Recovers After Computer Meltdown

by Barbara Peterson
British Airways Recovers After Computer Meltdown

British Airways. Photo: Bribri


British Airways said it has restored full service out of Heathrow and Gatwick Airports today (May 30) following a massive wave of flight cancellations and disruptions caused by a computer system failure.

The problem apparently began when a power supply issue wreaked havoc with the carrier’s operations, call centers and website, effectively making it impossible for passengers to check in or to board flights. The airline said it was forced to scrub 1,000 flights out of London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airports over the Memorial Day weekend, and left 75,000 passengers stranded, according to reports. 

By late Monday the airline said most flights, including long-distance services over the Atlantic, had returned to normal. BA chief executive Alex Cruz apologized to travelers and promised a full investigation into what caused the communications failure, to “ensure it never happens again.”  

BA posted updates on its travel trade portal and on social media over the weekend, which in addition to apologizing, dispensed routine advice, such as double-checking flight status before heading to the airport.  BA also warned that the problem had roiled its baggage systems too, and that it had a “significant number of bags” at Heathrow that had yet to be reunited with their owners.

If this all sounds familiar, it is. It’s at least the second time in less than a year that Britain’s largest airline has effectively been brought to its knees by a technological glitch. Last September, a software problem with the line’s self-service check-in kiosks caused a massive disruption, affecting tens of thousands of passengers who, among other things, had to wait in long lines for manually issued boarding passes and luggage tags.

And BA is hardly alone. In the past year, many of the world’s major airlines – and some minor ones too – have seen operations disrupted in a very public fashion. In January, Delta Air Lines had to cancel hundreds of flights after a computer outage. And that came just months after one of the worst meltdowns, in August, 2016, when a fire at an Atlanta power station knocked out a transformer, crippling critical IT systems, forcing Delta to scrub 2,000 flights.  United in 2015 suffered a series of computer woes that caused major service disruptions; last summer, Southwest canceled thousands of flights due to a technology breakdown.

So the bigger question for travel agents and their clients is: Why does this keep happening? Last weekend’s woes were blamed by some observers on the cost-cutting policies of BA’s corporate parent company, the IAG Group (which also includes Iberia), saying that the company had slashed staff and outsourced jobs in its IT department.

Other problems include the fact that most legacy airline computer systems are old and outdated, and the merger wave that swept the industry in recent decades only made things worse, as the new mega-airlines that emerged had to integrate often disparate systems.

“The big question is are they investing enough?” in IT, asked Henry Harteveldt, founder and travel analyst at Atmosphere Research. “Airlines are among the most technology dependent industries in the world, and they probably need to hire more people. For an airline, investing in a good technology infrastructure should be as critical as investing in airplanes.”

  2
  0
Tip of the Day
The professional travel advisor’s job is to equip the traveler with the necessary information to enable a good decision that will reflect that person’s own risk tolerance.
 
Paul Ruden
Daily Top List

Most Powerful Passports in the World

1. United Arab Emirates

2. Singapore

3. Germany

4. Denmark

5. Sweden

Source: Passport Index

TMR Recommendations
Top Stories
Royal Air Maroc Joins Oneworld Alliance as First Member on African Continent
Royal Air Maroc Joins Oneworld Alliance as First Member on African Continent

The alliance also added Fiji Airways as its first member in a new membership category, Oneworld Connect.

Will 2019 Be the Year NDC Bookings Gain Momentum?
Will 2019 Be the Year NDC Bookings Gain Momentum?

More than 50 airlines around the world are now certified at NDC Level 3, IATA’s highest NDC certification level, as well as the main GDSs.

LaGuardia Airport Opens First Wing in Redeveloped Terminal
LaGuardia Airport Opens First Wing in Redeveloped Terminal

The new space includes state of the art fixtures and upscale retail brands, including an outpost of the fabled FAO Schwartz toy store.

Wow Air Gets a Lifeline from Frontier Airlines
Wow Air Gets a Lifeline from Frontier Airlines

Indigo Partners, a private equity firm that has a stake in Frontier, has stepped in to help and said it has a strategic vision for Wow Air.

European Airlines Adding Transatlantic Flights for 2019 as Brexit Fears Ease
European Airlines Adding Transatlantic Flights for 2019 as Brexit Fears Ease

Low-cost carrier Norwegian and TAP Air Portugal are among the airlines planning to expand their flight networks in the U.S., starting in the spring.

Delta Air Lines Unveils First Biometric Terminal in Atlanta
Delta Air Lines Unveils First Biometric Terminal in Atlanta

Passengers at the Delta terminal in Atlanta can use facial recognition technology ‘from curb to gate.’

News Briefs
TMR Report Cards & Outlooks
Advertiser's Voice
Advertiser's Voice: Tauck