Passengers wait at Heathrow Airport as IT problems caused flight delays in London, Britain, August 7 2019. Picture: REUTERS/PAUL TRICKETT
Passengers wait at Heathrow Airport as IT problems caused flight delays in London, Britain, August 7 2019. Picture: REUTERS/PAUL TRICKETT

London — Problems with the British Airways (BA) IT systems have left thousands of passengers facing flight cancellations, delays and long queues at airports in the airline’s third major computer failure in a little more than two years.

Wednesday’s woes are the latest in a string of problems at the airline, which is also smarting from a $230m fine this month for a huge customer data breach and is bracing for potential strikes in a pay dispute with its pilots.

BA, owned by International Airlines Group (IAG), apologised to customers for Wednesday’s disruption and said its technical team was working to resolve the problems as soon as possible. It urged customers to allow extra time at airports.

Dozens of flights were cancelled or delayed, including flights to Greece, Spain, Italy and Russia, according to the departure boards at British airports.

BA would not confirm how many people have been affected by the IT problems but said it was experiencing a “systems issue” affecting check-in and flight departures at Heathrow, Gatwick and London City airports.

Customers have experienced issues checking in online, while others complained of being stuck on planes unable to take off for hours.

Stuart Jackson, a photography business manager, said he was stuck on a grounded plane at Heathrow and had already missed his connecting flight, disrupting months of planning and wasting thousands of pounds. “When I do arrive, I will have to just fly home again,” he said on Twitter. “BA is a complete catastrophe and I will never fly with them again.”

In 2018, BA was forced to cancel flights at Heathrow, Europe’s biggest airport, after problems with a supplier’s IT system. In May 2017 a massive computer system failure because of a power supply issue left 75,000 customers stranded.

BA said it has moved to back-up manual systems to keep some flights operating and it is offering customers the chance to re-book for another day.

Customers, meanwhile, continued to take to social media to voice their anger. Jamie Boswell said his flight was cancelled while he was attempting to check in: “Very busy to re-book. Not ideal with a one-year-old.” 

About half of the BA flights scheduled to depart from Heathrow’s terminal five between 9.30am and midday in the UK were cancelled or delayed, according to the airport’s website.

Reuters