british airways IT

British Airways IT catastrophe blamed on “human error”

Human error may have been the cause for the British Airways (BA) IT shutdown last month which left 75,000 bank holiday travellers stranded according to airline boss Willie Walsh.

Walsh, chief executive of BA owner International Airlines Group (IAG), said the actions of an engineer who disconnected and then reconnected a power supply to the data centre in “an uncontrolled and uncommanded fashion” may be central to a newly-ordered independent investigation.

That would not have been a big problem in itself, he said, but the damage was caused when the power was restored in an uncontrolled fashion.

“You could cause a mistake to disconnect the power, it’s difficult for me to understand how you can mistakenly reconnect the power,” said Walsh, who is currently at the International Air Transport Association global summit in Mexico.

He said “physical damage to the servers and distribution panels” was caused which made it difficult for BA to quickly overcome the power outage.

Walsh suggested in The Guardian this “in itself was a problem that we could have overcome probably in a couple of hours, I don’t think it would have led to any cancellations”.

Of the fed-up passengers who complained they had been left to queue before leaving Heathrow Airport, he said: “I wouldn’t suggest for one minute we got communications right at BA, we didn’t.”

The carrier was unable to resume a full schedule until the following Tuesday.

Walsh defended cost-cutting measures but has apologised again to customers and said the incident had damaged the BA brand. He also believes that the airline will fully recover from the incident.

“This is something I wouldn’t wish on anybody,” he said. “When you see customers who suffered, you wouldn’t want it to happen to any airline or any business.”

BA was accused of greed after the GMB union suggested the issue could have been prevented if the airline had not cut “hundreds of dedicated and loyal” IT staff and contracted the work to India last year.

Mick Rix, national officer of the GMB union, said: “What appears to be the selective dribbling out by IAG of what happened is only adding to the confusion.

“Instead the travelling public, BA employees and IAG investors deserve a clear explanation of what went on and why.

“This latest admission only reinforces what GMB has maintained throughout, that once a problem developed, the ability to recover was hugely hampered by the lack of experienced BA IT staff whose jobs and functions had been outsourced.

“Pending the investigation, which should be independent and transparent, and include a GMB representative, there must be a moratorium on any further outsourcing or offshoring of jobs.”

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