British Airways: Chaos continues at Heathrow

More than a third of British Airways flights from Heathrow have been cancelled as disruption to passengers enters a second…

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More than a third of British Airways flights from Heathrow have been cancelled as disruption to passengers enters a second day.

The airline was hit by a worldwide computer system power failure on Saturday, causing cancellations and delays for thousands of passengers.

All long-haul services will fly from Heathrow, but with delays, BA said.

The airline urged people to check the status of flights before before travelling to the airport.

Heathrow Airport is providing an updated schedule on its website, as is Gatwick, where Sunday departures are delayed but not cancelled.

BA advised passengers not to arrive at the airport too early, as people are not being admitted into Terminal 5 until 90 minutes before departure.

The airline apologised to customers for the issue, which is thought to have been caused by a problem with the IT system’s power supply.

In a statement released on Sunday, chief executive Alex Cruz said: “I know this has been a horrible time for customers. We’re not there yet, but we are doing our very best to sort things out for you.”

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How many flights are affected?

Queues at Heathrow Terminal 5Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionQueues for Heathrow’s Terminal 5 stretched out of the building on Sunday

Between 06:00 and 11:00 BST on Sunday, 143 British Airways flights were scheduled to depart from London Heathrow and Gatwick Airport.

So far 90 flights have left Heathrow and 36 have been cancelled.

At Gatwick, one BA flight has been cancelled. Other flights are returning to schedule.

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A woman sleeps on a luggage trolley at Heathrow Terminal 5Image copyrightREUTERS

The airline is liable to reimburse thousands of passengers for refreshments and hotel costs.

Customers displaced by flight cancellations can claim up to £200 a day for a room (based on two people sharing), £50 for transport between the hotel and airport, and £25 a day per adult for meals and refreshments.

One traveller from Seattle said she had spent the evening in a sleeping on the floor of a hotel conference room.

Ashley Tracey, who is trying to get to Mumbai for her friend’s wedding, said she had been queuing to rebook her flight for six hours.

She said: “There’s no information I can’t seem to get through online, I don’t live here so I don’t have a phone that works here.”

There have been reports that some passengers who departed from Heathrow on Saturday found their luggage was not at their destination when they landed.

Terry Page, 28, arrived in Fort Worth, Texas after delays and said “about 50” passengers did not have their check-in luggage.

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At the scene

by James Goldburn, BBC News, at Heathrow

People sleep next to their luggage at Heathrow Terminal 5 in LondonImage copyrightREUTERS

This morning, Heathrow Terminal 5 descended into chaos again as people arrived to rebook flights after theirs were cancelled yesterday; or new arrivals hoping they had not been affected by the company’s IT failure.

Many people told me about the lack of knowledge or information provided by BA staff.

One American woman on a stop-over described how an employee asked what the queue they were standing in was for.

Some passengers slept on yoga mats provided by the airline as conference rooms were opened to provide somewhere more comfortable to rest.

A number of people arrived at the airport for 05:00 and were still none the wiser by lunch time whether they’d be home any time soon.

As the day has progressed, British Airways appears to have more of a grip on the situation. The departure lounge has calmed down and many have rearranged their flights.

But the terminal is still full of hour-long queues and for many this wasn’t how they had hoped to spend their Bank Holiday weekend.

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People sleep at Heathrow Terminal 5 in LondonImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionPassengers slept on yoga mats, handed out by the airline

Thousands of bags remain at Heathrow Airport, but BA has advised passengers not to return to collect them, saying they will be couriered to customers.

The airport also said passengers whose flights were cancelled should not travel to Heathrow unless they have already rebooked their flight.

A spokesman said staff were “continuing to give passengers free water and snacks”.

Queues at Heathrow Terminal 5
Image captionSome passengers at Heathrow Terminal 5 have been waiting for six hours, since returning to the terminal to rebook flights
Gatwick Airport British Airways check-in lineImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionSome flights at Gatwick Airport are delayed, but no flights were cancelled on Sunday morning

On Saturday passengers described “chaotic” scenes at the airports, with some criticising BA for a lack of information.

The airline apologised and said it was refunding and rebooking customers.

The company’s chief executive Alex Cruz had said it was believed “the root cause [of the computer problems] was a power supply issue”. The company said there was no evidence the failure was the result of a cyber attack.

Media captionMark Birt has been left waiting in a bereavement room at Dublin airport

Other airlines flying in and out of the two airports were unaffected.

The IT failure affected check-in and operational systems, including customer service phone lines.

BA said although some of its IT systems had returned, “there will be some knock-on disruption to our schedules as aircraft and crews are out of position around the world.

“We are repositioning some aircraft during the night to enable us to operate as much of our schedule as possible throughout Sunday.”

People sleep next to their luggage at Heathrow Terminal 5 in LondonImage copyrightREUTERS

A spokesman added: “We are extremely sorry for the huge disruption caused to customers throughout Saturday and understand how frustrating their experiences will have been.

“We are refunding or rebooking customers who suffered cancellations on to new services as quickly as possible and have also introduced more flexible rebooking policies for anyone due to travel on Sunday and Monday who no longer wishes to fly to/from Heathrow or Gatwick.”

The GMB union had suggested the failure could have been avoided, had the airline not outsourced its IT work.

BA denied the claim, saying: “We would never compromise the integrity and security of our IT systems”.

Heathrow Terminal 5 disruptionImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionPassengers were left stranded outside Heathrow Terminal 5 on Saturday as a result of the IT failure

Aviation expert Julian Bray told the BBC the IT failure had an impact on planes taking off, as well as baggage systems, and staff access to computers.

“This is a very serious problem, they should have been able to switch to an alternative system – surely British Airways should be able to do this,” he said.

BA aircraft landing at Heathrow were unable to park as outbound aircraft could not vacate the gates, which resulted in passengers being stuck on aircraft.

Delays were also reported in Rome, Prague, Milan, Stockholm and Malaga due to the system failure, which coincided with a bank holiday weekend and the start of the half-term holiday for many people in the UK.

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