Sunday, May 28, 2017

British Airways Faces Second Day of Disruption After Computer Failure: Airline hopes to operate near normal schedule at Gatwick and the majority of services from Heathrow

The Wall Street Journal
By Robert Wall
May 28, 2017 4:20 a.m. ET

LONDON— British Airways on Sunday said a far-reaching computer outage continued to disrupt operations for a second day though the airline planned to operate most services after canceling hundreds of flights Saturday.

“We are continuing to work hard to restore all of our IT systems and are aiming to operate a near normal schedule at Gatwick and the majority of services from Heathrow on Sunday,” the airline said.

The disruption hit British Airways during one of the U.K.’s busiest travel weekends, with a public holiday on Monday, and the long Memorial Day break in the U.S. A power surge early Saturday knocked out computer systems, affecting the carrier’s operations, call centers and website.

Efforts to restore operations to normal took longer than anticipated. The airline Saturday canceled departures for most of the day from its busy London Heathrow hub and at Gatwick Airport, south of the British capital.

British Airways, a unit of International Consolidated Airlines Group SA and the biggest trans-Atlantic carrier on routes between Britain and the U.S., didn’t say how many passengers were affected. The airline canceled about half its services Saturday, or more than 400 flights, according to More than 220 other services were delayed, the flight tracking website said. showed more than 40 British Airways flights canceled for Sunday.

The carrier said it was refunding or rebooking passengers. British Airways Chief Executive Alex Cruz on Saturday said those efforts also had been hobbled, though, by the computer outage.

Sundays generally are the least busy day for airlines, limiting the number of British Airways customers impacted and making it easier to restore operations to normal. The carrier early Sunday said it wasn’t ready, yet, to say if there would be a knock-on effect on Monday flights.

“We are extremely sorry for the huge disruption caused to customers throughout Saturday,” British Airways said. The carrier said it would offer greater flexibility when rebooking for passengers no longer wanting to travel on Sunday or Monday from its two main London airports.

British Airways has suffered multiple problems in recent months with its computer system. A new check-in system introduced last year experienced multiple failures, leading to flight delays and angering passengers.

U.S. carriers also have struggled with computer glitches in recent months that led to flight cancellations and delays.  Delta Air Lines Inc . in January grounded flights for hours because of a technology outage affecting multiple systems. It followed an August breakdown that led to flight cancellations. In July,  Southwest Airlines Co.,   the No. 4 U.S. carrier, canceled 2,300 flights over four days after a computer problem.  United Continental Holdings Inc . in January also was forced to suspend flights because of technical issues.

Airlines often struggle with operating a mix of new computer equipment introduced to ease travel and improve operations and legacy systems that have been in place for years.

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