British Airways cancellations: Holidaymakers stranded amid Heathrow and Gatwick chaos

More than 20,000 passengers have had their flights cancelled so far, with thousands more facing long delays

Simon Calder@SimonCalder
Wednesday 07 August 2019 19:41
British airways delays: Travel chaos at Heathrow and Gatwick

At least 20,000 British Airways passengers – many of them holidaymakers – have had their flights cancelled due to yet more IT failures at BA.

The number of cancellations to and from Heathrow on Wednesday is at least 117, with dozens of flights to and from Mediterranean resorts among the casualties. At least 10 flights have been cancelled at Gatwick.

From BA’s main base, multiple flights to and from Barcelona, Berlin, Paris, Geneva, Zurich and Nice have been cancelled, along with services to Athens, Istanbul, Larnaca, Palma, Rome, Split and Venice.

Other flights axed include Amsterdam, Gibraltar, Stockholm, St Petersburg and Zagreb.

Domestic cancellations from Heathrow include two flights to each of Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

From Gatwick, round trips to Glasgow, Jersey, Malaga, Naples and Venice have been cancelled. The Sussex airport was also affected by a suspension of the Gatwick Express and disruption to Southern train services following a trackside fire.

BA’s problem had caused it to revert to using manual systems for check-in, causing long queues. It said the problem involved two separate systems – one which deals with online check-in and the other that deals with flight departures.

The airline said the IT problems have been fixed and that its systems were “returning to normal” but warned there will be some “knock-on operational disruption”, almost certainly running into Thursday.

A British Airways spokesperson said: “We have resolved the temporary systems issue from this morning which affected a number of our flights today.

“We apologise to all our customers caught up in the disruption, and appreciate how frustrating their experience has been.

“Our teams have been working tirelessly to get the vast majority of customers on their way, with most of our flights departing.

“We are encouraging customers to check for the latest flight information, and to allow additional time at the airport.”

Traveller Darren Rowe, from the Cotswolds, said his 10.20am flight to Hamburg from Heathrow for business meetings was cancelled.

He said: “There were massive queues, it was queue here, queue there, nobody was saying anything. The lack of information was just pathetic.”

There was more bad news for travellers as Ryanair pilots announced on Wednesday they are to stage a series of strikes after voting in favour of industrial action in a dispute over pay and conditions.

Members of the British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa) voted by 4-1 to back a campaign of action on a 72 per cent turnout.

Strikes will be held from 00.01am on 22 August until 23.59 on 23 August and from 00.01 on 2 September until 23.59pm on 4 September.

The BA chaos on Wednesday is the latest in a number of costly failures – the airline suffered a major computer failure in May 2017, with the airline cancelling all flights from Gatwick and Heathrow. It advised passengers not to travel to London airports.

In September 2018, the airline revealed tens of thousands of passengers had had their personal and financial details stolen by hackers in a data breach. The airline was fined £183m for failing to keep the information secure.

Under European air passengers’ rights rules, known as EU261, British Airways is obliged to rebook travellers whose flights are cancelled on other airlines if necessary.

Passengers are also entitled to hotel accommodation and meals as necessary.

In addition, everyone who arrives at their destination three hours or more late, or does not travel at all, is entitled to between €250 (£230) and €600 (£550) in compensation, depending on the distance of the flight.

If everyone affected so far claims, the cost to British Airways will be around £8m.

A spokesperson for BA said: “We will be rebooking onto other airlines where there is availability, and we will always meet our obligations under EU261.”

Many other flights are severely delayed. The departure from Heathrow to Lagos was more than four hours behind schedule – triggering payments of €600 for every passenger on board.

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