BA flight chaos blamed on new CEO's cost-cutting measures

Focus has zeroed in on CEO’s outsourcing IT systems to India

Rachael Revesz
Monday 29 May 2017 09:04 BST
Disruption has spilled into third day with some short-haul flights cancelled
Disruption has spilled into third day with some short-haul flights cancelled (Getty)

British Airways’ mass systems failure and cancellation of flights during one of the UK’s busiest travel weekends of the year may have been down to “cost cutting” under a new CEO.

The company has denied the claims.

After an unidentified “power supply issue” caused the delay and cancellation of more than 1,000 BA flights, focus has narrowed to CEO Alex Cruz and what unnnamed colleagues have described as his “slash and burn” management style.

He was accused of hiding behind several videos to explain why tens of thousands of passengers were caught up in the travel chaos, and he issued an email to staff, warning them to “refrain from live commentary”.

Mr Cruz, whose company could be facing a compensation bill of £150 million including delivering passengers' luggage by courier back to their homes, shut down the airline’s computer department last year, slashing 700 jobs in the UK. He then outsourced the company’s IT systems to Indian firm Tata Consultancy Services.

GMB union’s national aviation officer, Mick Rix, said: “This could have all been avoided. BA in 2016 made hundreds of dedicated and loyal IT staff redundant and outsourced the work to India.”

The CEO was reportedly paid more than £800,000 last year.

A British Airways spokeswoman said that the company would "never compromise the integrity and security of our IT systems".

"IT services are now provided globally by a range of suppliers and this is very common practice across all industries and the UK Government," she said.

"British Airways employs around 35,000 people in the UK providing high skilled and well paid jobs. It hires 1,000 people a year and has a strong apprenticeship programme."

Since Mr Cruz moved from leading low-cost Spanish airline Vueling to BA 18 months ago, the British firm scrapped free meals and reduced legroom on some flights.

In previous interviews, Mr Cruz said airlines were “prisoners […] of really old technology” and said BA need “to take decisions quickly and take them to market quickly”.

On a website called the Professional Pilots Rumour Network, used anonymously by aviation workers and BA staff, one person wrote: “He is a slash-and-burn manager and his philosophy and aggressive cost-cutting has obviously been taken a step too far here and he has to go for the good of BA.’

Another said: "He is a rabid cost-cutter and frankly should be sacked."

Stranded passengers over the bank holiday weekend complained of a lack of communication from the airline and were forced to sleep in terminal buildings or pay hiked-up prices at local hotels.

Mr Cruz said many IT systems were “back up today and we are doing all we can to restore our flight programme” but disruption has spilled over into a third a day, affecting some short-haul services to London Heathrow.

Mr Cruz said there was no evidence of a cyberattack, but did not explain where the systems had failed and why the airline had not automatically jumped to a back-up supply.

Nearly a third of BA flights from Heathrow had been cancelled by Sunday afternoon.

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