Grounded: People wait with their luggage at the British Airways check-in desks at Heathrow Terminal 5 in London on Sunday. Picture: REUTERS
Grounded: People wait with their luggage at the British Airways check-in desks at Heathrow Terminal 5 in London on Sunday. Picture: REUTERS

London — British Airways (BA) flights in and out of London’s Heathrow airport, the third busiest in the world, were disrupted for a second day on Sunday as the carrier struggled to return to normal service after a computer failure paralysed its operations, stranding thousands of travellers.

A total of 95 BA flights, or 10% of services, were cancelled by midday on Sunday, while 210 flights, or 24%, were delayed, according to Flight Aware, a Houston-based airline tracking service. Flight Aware said 418 flights were scrapped at Heathrow and Gatwick, south of London, on Saturday and 568 were delayed.

The disruption coincided with the start of the annual end-of-May holiday weekend in the UK and the three-day Memorial Day weekend in the US.

CEO Alex Cruz said BA had no evidence of a cyberattack.

On Sunday, BA urged passengers without rebooked flights to stay at home and check the carrier’s website for status updates. It had to scrap all Saturday afternoon and evening departures from Heathrow and Gatwick airports after what the carrier called a "very severe disruption" worldwide.

BA ordered passengers to leave the terminals and urged other travellers to stay home.

"We are extremely sorry for the huge inconvenience this is causing our customers and we understand how frustrating this must be," Cruz said in a video message filmed at the carrier’s operations centre near Heathrow. "We believe the root cause was a power supply issue and we have no evidence of any cyberattack," Cruz said.

The breakdown, which also affected call centres, prevented passengers from rebooking flights and from retrieving luggage that had already been loaded on their aircraft.

Heathrow, in a tweet on Sunday, said further delays and cancellations of BA flights were expected.

Travellers took to Twitter to complain of flight postponements, long lines to check in and long waits on the tarmac after boarding aircraft. Once services were cancelled, passengers from grounded aircraft or at gates at Heathrow endured large crowds at passport control desks to re-enter the country.

BA staff told customers to find hotels on their own for reimbursement later by the airline. Payments would include £200 a night for lodging, £50 round trip between the airport and the hotel, for transport and as much as £25 for refreshments, according to leaflets from the company.

John Strickland, director of aviation at JLS Consulting, said: "Considering the reimbursements for cancelled flights and the costs of lodging stranded passengers, this will have an impact on revenue and the magnitude of the cost will depend on how long the outage lasts and how long it takes to resolve."

Hotels surrounding the airports were reportedly charging as much as £1,000 to £2,500 for rooms for a night, according to the Sunday Telegraph.

The airline said it would seek to rebook customers or offer full refunds to passengers who were unable to fly.

Bloomberg

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