British Airways Worldwide Computer System Crash: What is going on with BA and IT?

As has been widely reported all over the world today, BA has experienced what must be the biggest IT disruption in its history as almost all of its IT systems failed today, Saturday 27 May 2017.

This has led to the cancellation of all flights from London Heathrow and Gatwick for the remainder of Saturday with reports of very long queues to exit Terminal 5 from the post-security airside area and passengers being separated from their luggage.

As has been widely reported all over the world today, BA has experienced what must be the biggest IT disruption in its history as almost all of its IT systems failed today, Saturday 27 May 2017.

This has led to the cancellation of all flights from London Heathrow and Gatwick for the remainder of Saturday with reports of very long queues to exit Terminal 5 from the post-security airside area and passengers being separated from their luggage. (Here is guidance for passengers due to fly from Sunday 28 May 2017.)

This is the first time in several years BA has been forced to cancel its entire flying programme, and the timing on a bank holiday weekend clearly could not be worse.

It is understood that the scale of the disruption was extremely severe with almost all IT systems out of operation, bar its internal e-mail.  The airline has cited a power failure as its cause, and has denied claims of a possible cyber attack.

BA is by no means the only airline in the world to face significant disruption due to IT. Both United Airlines and Delta have experienced network-wide disruption due to system failures.

However, this is not first time in the past 12 months BA has faced IT disruption. Its website ba.com crashed for nearly a day last month.  Last year, BA implemented a new check-in system which continues to crash repeatedly.

On each occasion BA has apologised for the disruption (see video from CEO Alex Cruz below).  However, such is the airline’s dependency on IT and the scale of disruption today, questions must now be asked about the airline’s IT strategy and its contingency planning.

Not only has BA introduced new systems, it has also outsourced many of its IT services to external providers, with an inevitable loss of corporate memory.  The airline also operates under a regime of extremely tight cost control from its parent company International Airlines Group.  Though, other IAG group airlines do not appear to have experienced any similar disruption.

No doubt the airline will ride out today’s adverse publicity as it has done in the past, but all airlines should take their reputation for operational reliability at their peril.

Readers who flew with BA before the opening of London Heathrow Terminal 5 will recall BA’s extremely poor reputation for baggage handling in its last years at Terminals 1 and 4 and it took many years for BA to shake this off.

As BA enters another busy summer season, it must get a handle on these issues before there is further damage to its reputation.

Advice for passengers affected by disruption and due to fly on BA in the coming days

If your flights has been cancelled do ensure you retain receipts for all consequential expenses (ground transportation, hotels, meals etc) to claim these from BA.

If you are due to fly on BA in the coming days, it is likely there will be delays and cancellations as aircraft and crews will be out of position. When all of its systems are up and running properly, the best way to keep track of your flight is to download the BA app on your smartphone and check your booking on the Manage My Booking tool on the BA website. It is particularly worth checking your bookings to ensure that e-mail and telephone contact information is up to date.

You can also check live flight information on the websites of Gatwick, Heathrow and London City airports.

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