/ Travel & Leisure

Were you affected by British Airways’ IT failure?

BA plane

If ever there was a time for British Airways to have an IT meltdown, it’s probably fair to say that the May Bank Holiday weekend and the start of half-term for schools in England and Wales wasn’t exactly ideal. So were you affected by the flight delays and cancellations?

It hit national news on Saturday that British Airways (BA) had suffered a massive IT systems failure causing global disruption and resulting in the cancellation of all BA flights leaving from London’s Gatwick and Heathrow.

While not all crises can be prevented, the coming weeks will probably reveal more about how they can be handled.

BA flights cancelled

My family were among those affected by the IT failure. My parents, sister, brother-in-law and six-month-old nephew were due to head off to Mauritius on Saturday evening for a wedding.

Conscious that they were travelling with a baby and on a long haul flight they had the whole trip meticulously arranged, having spent the best part of a year planning it. So they were completely heartbroken on Saturday when they heard the news that BA flights were cancelled.

Having followed the advice not to go to the airport, they were solely reliant on the news and public messaging from BA for updates as they couldn’t get any information directly from the company for a long period of time.

At one point, it looked like the holiday they’d spent a year planning and saving for would be off.

However, they managed to get through to a BA customer service agent who was incredibly helpful and got them booked onto Monday’s flight – she even stayed in the office until gone midnight to try and help affected passengers.

While they’d managed to get on a flight yesterday evening, the 48 hours in-between were incredibly stressful. However, it could have been a lot worse, as it was for these people:

My family’s experience was very mixed too. One BA representative they spoke to said they probably wouldn’t be entitled to compensation because their destination wasn’t within the European Union. As a Which? employee, I knew this wasn’t the case – the Denied Boarding Regulation covers flights that depart from an airport within the EU whatever the airline.

The regulation also covers flights for passengers departing from an airport outside the EU for an airport within the EU, if the airline is based in an EU state – which BA is.

Happy holidays

I’m hoping my family will be able to enjoy the rest of their holiday, but I know the journey to get there has been a bit of a nightmare. It’s been especially difficult for them as they had booked months in advance for a special seat with access to a carrycot, which they were unable to reserve on the new flight.

Have you, or someone you know, been affected? Do you think BA has given clear information on the situation and compensation procedures? Have you tried to rebook or claim compensation? What more could BA do for its passengers?

Claim for a flight delay

Comments
Profile photo of Ian
Member

This was a débâcle of epic proportions. In this day and age how could an organisation that relies on computer systems totally not have some sort of tested backup plan in place? And it’s always the same story: lack of information. Why were passengers not given up to date information? Why were the PA systems not deployed to full effect? Why has the MD not resigned? If this were a government department a minister would probably have gone by now.

The CEO has claimed a ‘power surge’ was to blame. Must have been one almighty surge to take out all the data processing centres simultaneously.

Profile photo of alfa
Member

Not having a working backup system is unbelievable.

Luggage not travelling with passengers is also unacceptable. Surely they could have found a way for passengers to take their luggage to planes and get it manually loaded?

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Member

The whole system of security relies on intercommunication using computers , every check is done that way , on you,on your baggage etc. The passport is checked to a central government data base , CCTV scanners transmit your face onto computer, electronic explosive sniffers are used on baggage checking , your luggage is passed through a scanner ,airports are full of information gathering devices as well as ANPR for vehicles . Just look at Homeland Security and the number of checks they make I have a full list of everything including passengers being forced allow access to their laptops/ mobile phones etc all this goes via the web to government data bases and access is allowed for security forces to check out people . I cannot believe there isn’t a backup system that isn’t blocked from any “surge ” if thats what they want to call it. A surge in electricity is when overvoltage occurs dont expect me to believe they haven’t thought of that, now if a lightning strike hit communications that a different story but airport communications are underground and separate from normal cables . Power stations have been hit in the past by “unfriendly countries ” and even hackers but I just dont believe this story.

Profile photo of Ian
Member

I’m afraid I agree.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Member

Truth at last Ian but it takes going to the USA to get it .US Customs+Border Protection -same fault- same result -same airport failures . Actually one statement later given by UK spokesman – was – it happened during a “change of operations ” – massive clue ! -US Federal Authorities – guess what they say and ADMIT ?? its a —computer UPDATE that did it , thats right the good old Windows “blue screen ” type of update . San Francisco- a SOFTWARE update -not hackers -4 hour customs outage –and YES ! they had a backup system –that worked ! only a bit slower . How did they admit it ?? because the US looks after its citizens and everything isnt on a “need to know ” basis – Senator Bill Nelson D-Florida wrote to CBP Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske DEMANDING a detailed explanation ( and our MP,s ? ) and got it- says- equipment outdated government (USA) wont pay for latest equipment ( ring any bells here ? ) – floppy discs still in use at the Defense Dept. he says , he goes on at length I have the full report if anybody queries what I have posted . We need more honesty in this country.

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

It is impossible to overestimate the effect that Ralph Nader had on consumer protection in the USA as a result of his campaigns from the 1960’s onwards. His lasting contribution is a much more consumer-oriented state of mind in American justice, corporate behaviour, disclosure, and federal responsibility to the citizens, even in contradiction to state legislatures on occasions. Not even rampant Republicanism through several American presidencies has neutralised the pro-consumer culture. With all due respect to Which? and its founding fathers and mothers, we have never had the same degree of commitment and support as people in the United States and we even have governments that weaken and destroy some of our defences against dodgy commerce.

As a global carrier, BA has responsibilities towards all its customers across the world under all jurisdictions and its conduct during this latest IT collapse has been shameful. Even if, as pleaded, the back-up flight management system let them down, the procedures for dealing with stranded passengers should have swung into action and proper information, support, and facilities should have been made available. The next thing Heathrow and Gatwick need are not more runways but large dormitories with adequate washrooms. The contrast with how the NHS responded to the aftermath of the terrorist bombing incident in Manchester the previous week is enlightening.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Member

Your first paragraph is a “work of art ” John sounds very “Churchillian “/ philosophical on a grand scale. I vote for it to be pinned up on the Westminster Entrance Hall.

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

Thank you, Duncan. I endeavour to give satisfaction.

Profile photo of MichaelH
Member

I myself was not affected by the BA computer failure over the Bank Holiday, but to blame a power failure for the computers to be “Down” is a bit “Far Fetched”. Think about it for a minute are BA telling their customers that every passenger is tied to a centrally located computer system?

Last year in August 2016, I was travelling from Chicago back to the UK, I checked in “On-line” and was allocated a particular gate at O’Hare Airport the international departure airport to the UK.
When I went to the “Baggage Drop” I was told that I would have to be be “re-checked” in as they were having problems in integrating a major Software Update. I would suspect that this was not a power problem but a Major “Software integration” problem.

Member
sue says:
4 June 2017

I was unfortunately a victim of last weekend’s BA saga, being stranded in Oslo, Norway, after visiting friends. My return flight was at 11.35 on Sunday 28th, but I discovered it had been cancelled a couple of hours beforehand. Rebooked onto 17:15, cancelled, rebooked onto 21:15, cancelled. Rebooked onto 07:45 on Monday 29th, cancelled! During this time, I was given just one voucher for 115 NOK which didn’t even cover the cost of a coffee and sandwich from Starbucks! Despite other flights departing during the day on Monday, BA would only offer me the 21:15 flight. I was, by this time, tired, hungry, broke and in pain because my medication for a chronic illness had run out, so I booked a flight home with SAS on Monday afternoon. I have put in a claim to BA, but I think I’ll be lucky to receive anything as BA told me to claim on insurance, and insurance company told me to claim from BA 🙁
It seems BA does not want to take responsibility for what had happened when it was clearly their fault!!

Member
Saida ali says:
6 June 2017

I was delayed from my Nairobi flight on 9 May my flight was supposed to have left at 2355 and land on 10 May at 0555 .we left on 10 May from Nairobi 1515 approx and arrived here in Heathrow at 2215 .during my time in Nairobi we were offered hotel accommodation we settled into the rooms around 0300 and were told to be ready to be collected by 8 am in that time we had to settle down sleep get up and have breakfast so we only had a few hours sleep .back at the airport we did not leave till 1515 and we’re offered no meals no water nothing zilch
At home I asked if I could get accommodation they said no but I could get a taxi home and be fully compensated I explained that I live in the midland approx 100 odd miles away all 3 staff members assured me I would get my money back I paid £355 I have the receipt from the black cab taxi driver and BA has only offered me £50 !!! A rip off . Had I known this I would have tried to make alternative measures . I am unemployed my son paid for my ticket I do not work this is really not on for BA to promise at the airport and then come back and say just £50 after i repeatedly told them the distance and all 3 staff member assured me I would get my money back in full

Member
Danny Divers says:
9 June 2017

I flew in to Heathrow at 2pm on Saturday after a 10 1/2 hour flight from San Francisco only to have to sit on the plane for over 3 hours as the airport was full, we then where ushered through passport control so could not talk to anyone from BA before we got land side, we then spent nearly an hour trying to find out what was happening re rescheduled flight, suitcases etc, we were told that we would not get out cases and where given a sheet of paper to say what we could claim, I tried to explain that I have a heart condition and my medication was in the case that I could not get (case finally arrived on the Thursday, 5 days after we arrived), I was told there was nothing they could do. We then stood in a queue for another 3 hours to try and get somewhere to sleep that night, I will not go in to the debacle that was “we know London.com” caused, we then finally got an hotel booked at 11.30pm, in central London, it was the cheapest hotel we could get that had rooms, the cost was £344, I have just had an email from BA to say, in their words “Which appear in excess of the reasonable costs expected for a journey of that nature” and have only been offered the standard £200, which I believe is an insult as BA did nothing to help me get a hotel, in fact we were told to call at 6am the following morning or go on to the website to “change our booking ” to get on a new flight, at 6am no one was answering their phones and I could not rearrange a new flight on their website, which stated, “do not travel to the airport unless you had a confirmed flight”, which as they were not answering their phones and their website was not working and I could not get my medication, how could we get a confirmed flight? then we had no option but to spend more money on a train home. i’m sure there will be a debate over the cost of the train in the coming days. All in all this was a problem caused by BA which had the knock on effect that hotels raised their prices but I am having to pay money out of my own pocket. Sorry for this long winded but I am so angry with BA, its not the £144 I am out of pocket but the principle that it is being suggested that it was MY FAULT that I paid too much for the hotel.
PS there was not one announcement by BA at the airport to let anyone know what was happening.

Profile photo of Dean Samways
Member

For all those who were affected by the BA IT failure, we’ve launched a brand new way for you to get your message across the airline chief, Alex Cruz. If you have a story about a delayed or cancelled flight with British Airways and want to support our call for automatic compensation, click hear and start writing a postcard to the airline: http://www.which.co.uk/bapostcard