/ Travel & Leisure

Your views: British Airways’ response to its IT failure

British Airways

Thousands of BA passengers were grounded following a computer system failure in May. In the aftermath, we asked you ‘should BA offer its passengers automatic compensation?’ Here’s what you said.

In just three days we received over 100 comments on our convo and nearly 5,000 people voted in our poll. A huge 97% said they think BA should offer automatic compensation for delayed and cancelled flights.

More striking than these statistics however were the numerous accounts of poor customer service customers have experienced with BA and the differing views on automatic compensation.

Communication breakdown

Alison, a former BA employee, touched on the one immediate frustration many caught at Heathrow and Gatwick suffered; a lack of updates from BA as the situation unfolded:

‘I know from personal experience that one of the worst things you can do to passengers is not tell them what is happening. Being kept informed and up-to-date is so very important, particularly if you are meeting other people at the end of your journey, who may be greatly inconvenienced by any delay in your travel arrangements.’

Other travellers have reportedly complained of waiting more than an hour after the story broke in the press being being informed their flights had been cancelled.

Reputational turbulence

Another supporter, Charlie, wasn’t directly affected but feels the whole debacle may affect who they fly with in the future:

‘I have a trip abroad planned soon and was planning to book flights with BA. One reason I had chosen BA (rather than one of the budget airlines) is because I thought I’d receive good customer service and support in the event of anything going wrong. I’m not sure now it is worth the extra cost of BA after reading about how badly passengers have been treated following this fiasco.’

Unsurprisingly perhaps, this sentiment was echoed a number of times on Conversation with another supporter making the point to BA that it is difficult to be everything to everyone and imparting advice to ‘be quality, charge a premium’.

Automatic compensation

Touching on compensation Jill believes being fully compensated won’t be enough for BA to make good with some of their customers

‘British Airways got it very wrong and now they are adding insult to injury by making it difficult for their customers to claim what is rightfully theirs in the way of compensation. Even if their customers break even, money wise, it does nothing to erase the terrible disappointment of families being robbed of their holiday. Come on BA do the right thing and go some way to earning back the good will and respect of your customers.’

Iain echoed that line of thought adding that ministers should make automatic compensation a primary focus of the next Parliament:

‘After the fiasco (which ruined the holidays of many families) the very least BA should be doing is to issue full refunds and supplement that by giving free tickets for a future flight. Of course it should be automatic. And if legislation is needed to force them to do that, then it should be made a priority in the new Parliament.’

Over the weekend we published an open letter to BA calling on them to auto-compensate the passengers who fell victim to the airline’s IT error. Is there anything else you think British Airways should be doing to help their customers in this situation?


Five years ago it took BA nearly 24 months to pay out compensation for a delayed flight. They had frustrating automated systems and even my letter to the CEO was ‘intercepted’ by customer services and rewarded with one of a number of their bland electronic holding responses. It sounds as though BA are still operating in the same way – perhaps aiming to frustrate the passenger into giving up!

J. Keegan says:
10 June 2017

Although not directly affected by the BA debacle, I do feel for all those passengers who had their holidays and travel plans ruined. The very least that BA can do in the circumstances is provide automatic compensation. In my view, BA’s CEO, Mr Cruz, has trashed the reputation of BA and demonstrated that he’s totally unsuited to manage what used to be the UK’s premier airline. Even worse, his obsession with cost-cutting has reduced BA to little more than a very expensive “bucket shop” airline, unfit to be regarded as our national flag carrier,

All airlines should automatically pay compensation for flight delays. Recently I was on a jet2 flight from Leeds that was 5 hours late.I sent a claims letter to jet2 demanding payment of 400 euros in 14 days,they responded by letter saying.’it will take some time to process and investigate fully’. There is nothing for them to investigate ,the plane was 5 hours late ,they know that ,myself and a few hundred other people know that, they should pay up immediately .
When I book a holiday with jet2 I pay the deposit,when the balance is due I pay immediately,if I refused to pay they would cancel my holiday and threaten me with legal action.When they owe me money they look for excuses not to pay me what I am entitled to .These people are disgusting hypocrites.

Colin John Webster says:
10 June 2017

BA has always been a complacent, arrogant and unsympathetic business with an appalling attitude to customer service. As my ‘national carrier’, they make me ashamed to be British. However, cabin and flight-deck staff struggle to do their best, but they are hampered by very poor management.
To try and say that the failure of IT systems was solely due to power failure is defensive nonsense; Willie Walsh and Alex Cruz clearly need to be educated in disaster planning. IT systems must have rational defence, back-up and restore systems in place that have been tested to work. I support Which? in their campaign, and suggest that BA gets some better managers.

Very good contribution Colin. I’m aware of how rubbish & arrogant BA management are, as I’ve known GOOD people who have worked for the airline and had the spirit & good will taken right out of them. Treating employees with respect and fairnesss counts an awful lot as well. Dont companies always emphasize “team work” and then there isn’t any. Proper teamwork ultimately equals a far better company that EVERYONE benefits from. One example is Passengers. For the customer is the lifeblood of any business and is often disdainfully and all too readily forgotten/ taken for granted. And of course employees work far better with decent treatment. Therefore immediately – it’s a better company. Last but not least the COMPANY ITSELF benefits in all ways with a more professional, less corner or cost cutting and a reasonable and fair approach. In fact their precious profits will get an upward turn in the long run, with proper long term planning rather than the usual short term gain, that lacks any real or lasting substance. Chris Newman Southampton ( sick of the appalling standard of much of the management in this “so called – great country”) … {Don’t make me laugh}.

Well said Colin. As a former employee of British Airways I have been dismayed to see how far it has gone downhill under the leadership of Alex Cruz and Willie Walsh. Appallingly poor management.

Richard Wagner says:
10 June 2017

All airlines could authorise local ground management to provide food and drink to delayed passengers without reference to the centre – follow the example of the Timpsons chain, where shop managers can pay out up to £500 if they feel a customer has a problem caused by the shop. Great customer loyalty builder, and simply does the right thing.

The fact that BA control centre is not located in the UK could be a contributory factor and I think that really wants looking into . They have a lot of work to do to regain passenger confidence .Also why is there too many industrial strikes effecting flight schedules with BA ? This firm needs to get a grip prompt !

The bit that matters seems to be at Heathrow and the India Tata operation is said not to be involved.

agreed David, BA need to get a grip. You can only push customer loyalty so far.

I am concerned for all disabled passengers who would have no way to make any changes for their travel, this especially for people who use a wheelchair or have limited walking ability , such as myself.

Were any disabled people affected and not helped appropriately by BA?

When it was obvious that they were dealing with a major failure the absence of any senior members of B A either on the ground or on air with explanations was a disgrace. They should be ashamed

BA’s reputation is now in tatters & their reluctance to compensate passengers will only compound that. Their ridiculously chaotic management of the situation with clearly no action plan in place & on a highly visible international stage will cost them dear, no doubt. This just goes to prove that BA are no better than the budget airlines, so I won’t be wasting my money on them again. The only difference to the passenger is the in flight meal, which considering the extra cost of the tickets is very poor value.

A strong sugestion for BA customers. I claimed off Easyjet. They stalled for months. I made a Small claim in the County Court. Even then they applied to lodge a defence which they never did. I was awarded my claim which was paid in days.

Freda Hendel says:
10 June 2017

A wise move and one that I shall employ, if needed, in the future is to initiate a Small Claim in the County Court. I have switched to BA from Easy Jet and Flybe because of their luggage restrictions and the delays that seem to be regular occurrences now I wonder what to do as there is nowhere else to go. BA should put their house in order immediately. Repay those inconvenienced immediately and convince the rest of us they are worthwhile.

People should really holiday in the UK. There are many fine resorts and due to the changeable weather conditions that we have, there is a reduced risk of skin cancer by having holidays at home. This in turn will help the NHS.
But lets discuss the issue – Lets say my holiday from Manchester Airport to Spain is delayed by 6 hours -SO the air company has to reimburse me for that delay? – BUT my car journey from Manchester to Cornwall is delayed by 12 hours, due to congestion on the Motorways and Caravans – So who pays for that delay?
Trying to claim compensation like this is really pathetic. It’s like asking, who do I sue if I get a flat tyre.

Norman Naylor says:
12 June 2017

I think the airline should do more than make announcements over the public address system. Delays and cancellations can impose a whole range of concerns and problems for passengers and a caring airline would send real people – customers services personnel – to circulate among passengers and deal with their questions.

Being profoundly deaf, public address systems are a waste of time, all I hear is noise. You can’t lip-read public address system!

John Walter says:
13 June 2017

I stopped flying BA several years ago after a standard class flight back from Seattle. The cabin staff openly stood about chatting rather than keep themselves aware of passengers who might require attention. It seems that BA executives’ deals are more related to profits for the shareholders than consideration for clients.

Ianm says:
15 June 2017

They need toPut the Custome First Again. Start by getting rid of the useless Spanish CEO whose previous experience was running two low-cost airlines and who has not the culture and understanding required to restore and maintain the BA brand.

yes when I worked for the airline, I distinctly remember Putting People First course 1 and then course 2. No danger of that nowadays. The only thing Cruz puts first is his own bonus, which he’ll get when he leaves after running BA into the ground. Interestingly enough he recently told his employees that he intended to “make BA great again”. I’d love to know how he intends to do that! I tweeted him to ask- zero response.

The truth is that BA have outsourced their IT divison to sub-standard offshore supplies. So well done BA management you may have saved in the short term, now you will pay millions in compensation and a incalculabe in lost confidence and hence future sales. It makes it worse that the CEO lied about the incident and said it was nothing to do with the outsource. However, I wager that the TRUE ‘findings’ of the independent review of the incident will ever be made public.

So to all senior management reading this , when the price is cheap think BA , it’s cheap for a reason !

Alexandrina Jane says:
22 June 2017

They should have an English CEO not Spanish

Ah, but it’s no longer an ‘English’ company, but part of an international group, isn’t it? However, that should not make any difference. Awful service and indifference trickle down from the top. Nationality of the CEO is immaterial.

Far too much air travel, atmospheric pollution is one cause of global warming. The planet and all life upon it
is now seriously endangered. Temperatures world wide are soaring, so if you are happy with the thought of
living in an oven, just keep flying.

Why is their not a quick security check for passengers late for their flight? Why are the departure gates not advertised at least 45 minutes before take off? In Heathrow they wait until the very last minute and passengers have to run. This is ridiculous for the elderly and disabled.

stop polluting our sacred air !!