British Airways IT System Fails; Thousands Stranded at Airports

British Airways A380

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Today, the British Airways IT system failed worldwide. Their website, call centers, and mobile app all stopped working, which has caused flights from London-Heathrow and London-Gatwick to be canceled.

Originally, flights were expected to resume at 6:00 pm BST, but it appears the problem is bigger than originally thought. Flights have now been canceled through the remainder of the day and thousands of passengers have been stranded.

To make matters worse, there have also been reports of British Airways flights not being able to deplane upon arrival and numerous baggage claim issues at Heathrow and Gatwick.

Passengers are being offered refunds or fee-free changes, but with weekend plans ruined that’s unlikely to make passengers that much happier about the situation. This is particularly bad timing for British Airways as it is a holiday weekend in the UK and many people are traveling.

Adding to the controversy, British Airways recently outsourced its IT work to India and union officials have expressed that they feel this failure was avoidable.

If you happen to be stuck in London because of this IT system failure, make sure you know your rights as a passenger. In 2005, the European Union passed a resolution that stipulates passengers are owed financial compensation for canceled flights or if your arrival is delayed by more than 3 hours.

The compensation you are owed is determined by several factors including flight distance and route: whether the flight is within the EU, departing from the EU, or on a European carrier departing from a non-EU airport.

Any flight from an EU airport (regardless of the airline’s home country) is covered by EU261 compensation if the delay or cancellation meets the qualifications.

Here’a quick rundown of the financial compensation you can expect based on your flight type if your arrival is delayed by more than 3 hours:

EU261 Compensation – Flights Within the EU
1,500 km or less€250
Over 1,500 km€400

On long international flights, financial compensation can reach up to €600.

EU261 Compensation – Flights Between the EU and non-EU countries
1,500 km or less€250
1,500 km to 3,500 km€400
Over 3,500 km€600

An airline operating a flight that falls under the EU261 regulations is also required to provide food and beverages when flights are delayed for more than 2 hours. If you are rebooked to travel the next day, you are also entitled to accommodation. The airline is also responsible for covering the cost of transportation to and from your overnight accommodation.

If you are stuck in London today or ever find yourself in this situation, make sure you fill out the EU261 compensation form as soon as possible.

When you consider the thousands of people stranded in London right now, this could be a very expensive IT system failure for British Airways!

I think we can expect quite the debate about whether the outsourcing of the IT system to save money led to this failure. As we’ve seen recently with U.S. carriers including United and Delta, these kinds of failures not only hit the bottom line but erode trust with travelers.

We’ll keep an eye on the situation as it develops. Hopefully, operations will be back to normal soon.


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