BA outage: Contractor 'switched off power'

A local computer outage could lead to thousands of stranded passengers at London Heathrow Airport.
A local computer outage could lead to thousands of stranded passengers at London Heathrow Airport.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

LONDON • A contractor doing maintenance work at a British Airways (BA) data centre inadvertently switched off the power supply, knocking out the airline's computer systems and leaving 75,000 people stranded last weekend, the Times newspaper has reported.

Quoting a BA source, the paper said yesterday the power supply unit that sparked the IT failure was working perfectly but was accidentally shut down by a worker.

An investigation into the power outage is likely to focus on human error rather than any equipment failure, it said.

BA had to cancel all flights from London's Heathrow and Gatwick airports last Saturday. It blamed a power surge that knocked out its computer systems, disrupting flight operations, call centres and its website.

The owners of the airline, IAG SA, defended BA boss Alex Cruz's handling of the massive chaos estimated to cost the carrier as much as €100 million (S$156 million).

"It has been very unfair of people to try and blame Alex," IAG chief executive officer Willie Walsh said at a press conference in Barcelona to celebrate the first flight by the group's new budget brand, Level. "It was not a problem of his making."

After the computer failure grounded hundreds of flights, Mr Cruz came under fire for the cost cuts and outsourcing he has led since taking over BA a year ago.

Meanwhile, global airline leaders are meeting in Mexico from tomorrow to Tuesday, concerned about the impact of an escalating row over laptop bans and rising protectionism. Although the industry has overcome previous losses to notch up an eighth successive year of profit, the International Air Transport Association, which groups 275 airlines, is now facing new challenges.

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 03, 2017, with the headline 'BA outage: Contractor 'switched off power''. Print Edition | Subscribe