Union blames BA computer failure on outsourcing IT support to India

British Airways is dealing with its third day of disruption after a global computer system failure stranded thousands of passengers over a holiday weekend and turned into a public relations disaster. The airline said it was running a full schedule at Gatwick airport today and planned to operate all its long-haul flights from Heathrow, although some short-haul flights had been cancelled.

BA had been forced to cancel all its flights from Heathrow, Europe’s busiest airport, and Gatwick on Saturday after a power supply problem disrupted its operations worldwide and also hit its call centers and website. The disruption continued yesterday with stranded passengers curled up under blankets on the floor or slumped on luggage trolleys, images that played prominently in the media at the start of a week when schools were on holiday.

“Apologizes all well and good but not enough. BA has lost another loyal customer #disgraceful,” tweeted Tom Callway, who had been due to fly to Budapest. Spanish-listed shares of parent company IAG, which also owns carriers Iberia, Aer Lingus and Vueling, dropped 2.7% today. Davy analyst Stephen Furlong said the cost to the carrier of cancelling one day of operations was around £30m in revenue and £4m in operating profit. On top of that, the airline will pay compensation to customers for the delays, though he added it looked likely to be a one-off cost which would be limited given the resumption of flights yesterday and today.

BA has been cutting costs to respond to competition on short-haul routes from Ryanair and easyJet and recently faced criticism for starting to charge passengers for their in-flight snacks. “This could have all been avoided. BA in 2016 made hundreds of dedicated and loyal IT staff redundant and outsourced the work to India,” Mick Rix, GMB National Officer for Aviation, said. In response, BA said its IT services were provided by a range of suppliers and that this was common practice. “We would never compromise the integrity and security of our IT systems,” a BA spokeswoman said.