British Airways IT glitch strands passengers at 3 London airports

Adam Jan Figel /

If troubles with its pilots and repercussions from last year’s data breach incident were not enough, British Airways has just taken another hit. An IT system failure on August 7, 2019, has forced the UK’s flagship carrier to cancel and delay hundreds of flights across three London airports, stranding passengers during peak summer travel season. The problem has since been resolved, British Airways told AeroTime. 

An IT outage on British Airways (BA) online check-in and flight departure systems at Heathrow, Gatwick and London City airports, as well as on the airline’s app, are affecting flights across its network. Without disclosing how many flights have been affected, BA said it was reverting to manual systems for check-in at the three airports.

“Some of our systems are affected but we are operating with back-up manual systems to keep our flights operating. The issue is affecting our London airports and this is having a knock on effect at some of our out stations,” a spokesperson for BA told AeroTime, assuring the IT glitch is “not cyber crime-related”.

BA said it is offering customers on short-haul services from Heathrow, Gatwick and London City to re-book their flight to another day, between August 8 and 13, 2019. Passengers whose flights have been cancelled are being offered a refund or rebook options. The airline is also rebooking customers with other carriers.

The hardest impact has been felt at Heathrow Airport (LHR), British Airways’ main hub. According to the BBC, at least 117 flights have been cancelled at Heathrow and another 10 at Gatwick (LGW). London City Airport (LCY) has also been affected, although flight cancellations were avoided.

A spokesperson for London City told AeroTime: “There have been no British Airways cancellations at London City Airport. The airline was able to utilise its manual systems for this morning’s departures in order to overcome the wider systems issue, although some of them were subject to delays.” As of approximately 13:00 (GMT +1), BA was able to restore the normal system at the airport.

According to British Airways latest statement released on August 7, 2019, afternoon, the IT systems outage has been resolved, however it will take time for operations to return to normal.

“We have resolved the temporary systems issue from this morning which affected a number of our flights today. Our teams have been working tirelessly to get the vast majority of customers on their way, with most of our flights departing. Our flights are returning to normal, however there may be some knock-on operational disruption as a result of the issue earlier.”

“We apologise to all our customers caught up in the disruption, and appreciate how frustrating their experience has been”.

Trouble in the air

According to estimates by British newspaper The Telegraph, around 20,000 passengers could be affected by the cancellations. If all affected customers were to claim compensation, as entitled under European Union laws, BA could face a bill of over £8 million (around €8.7 million).

It has already been a troubling summer for the UK’s flagship carrier. In July 2019, BA was slapped with a proposed £183.4 million (approximately €198.5 million) fine for a huge customer data breach on its website and app, revealed by the airline in September 2018. 

Another major thorn in BA’s side is the threat of pilots’ strike action. The airline has lost two legal challenges against the British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) in an attempt to block the planned industrial action, which could come as early as this month. BA is due to restart talks with the pilots‘ union this week in what has been called a “last-ditch attempt“ to avert the walkout.

Just recently, a dispute over pay has also mobilized Heathrow Airport staff, which had threatened an industrial action. Although the strike was called off on August 5, 2019, a  walkout on August 23 and 24 is still scheduled to go ahead, the BBC reports. The planned two-day strike may now be the next issue to affect BA’s operations at its hub. 


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