/ 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


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.


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?


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.


I’m afraid I agree.


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.


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.


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.


Thank you, Duncan. I endeavour to give satisfaction.