All flights to the Gulf region cancelled on Saturday
British Airways said it will try to operate most of its scheduled departures from London on Sunday, after a computer system failure paralysed its operations at the start of a three-day holiday weekend in the UK.
The carrier scrapped all Saturday departures from Heathrow and Gatwick airports, after originally halting services from late morning until 6 pm, following what it called a “very severe disruption” worldwide. It ordered passengers to leave the terminals and urged other travellers to stay home.
The airline is looking to operate the majority of its Heathrow departures on Sunday and “a near normal schedule” from Gatwick, although aircraft and crews are out of position and have to be relocated during the night, it said in a website posting late Saturday.
Flights in the Gulf region were impacted Saturday, with cancellations of Heathrow flights to and from Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, Jeddah, Doha, Kuwait, Muscat and Bahrain, as well as Middle East destinations Beirut, Amman, Tehran. British Airways doesn't operate flights to the region from Heathrow.
The breakdown, which also affected call centres, prevented passengers from rebooking or from retrieving luggage that had already been loaded onto their planes.
Long-haul flights from the Gulf region are excepted to arrive as scheduled on Sunday. The airline advised passengers travelling today to check the status of their flight on its website www.ba.com before coming to the
"We are continuing to work hard to restore all
of our IT systems and are aiming to operate a near normal schedule at Gatwick
and the majority of services from Heathrow on Sunday," the airline said.
"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."
Travellers took to Twitter from late morning in Europe to complain of flight postponements, long lines to check in, and waiting for long periods on the tarmac after boarding planes.
Once services were cancelled, passengers from grounded planes or at gates at Heathrow endured large crowds at passport control desks to re-enter the country.
British Airways staff told customers to find hotels on their own for reimbursement later by the airline. Payments will include 200 pounds ($260) per night for lodging, 50 pounds round trip between the airport and the hotel, and as much as 25 pounds for refreshments, according to leaflets from the company.
“I would estimate, given the timing of the bank holiday weekend, that this has affected a hundred flights and a thousand passengers already,” said John Strickland, director of aviation at analysts JLS Consulting,
“Considering the reimbursements for cancelled flights and the costs of lodging stranded passengers, this will have an impact on revenue and the magnitude of the cost will depend on how long the outage lasts and how long it takes to resolve.”
The disruption coincides with the start of the annual end-of-May Bank Holiday weekend in the UK, as well as the three-day Memorial Day weekend regarded as the unofficial start of summer in the US.
British Airways is a unit of International Consolidated Airlines Group SA. No widespread delays were reported at the company’s Spanish division, Iberia, or at its Irish brand Aer Lingus.