In Depth

British Airways IT failure: what happened and can you claim compensation?

More than 100 flights are cancelled and hundreds more delayed after airline suffers major computer outage

A major glitch with British Airways’ computer systems has resulted in almost 100 flights being cancelled and hundreds more delayed.

The issue occurred this morning, causing problems for customers attempting to check-in online for flights departing from Heathrow, Gatwick and London City airports, The Guardian reports. 

Check-in staff also experienced problems with IT systems and the airline was forced to switch over to “back-up manual systems”, the newspaper adds. 

“A number of flights continue to operate but we are advising customers to check ba.com for the latest flight information before coming to the airport”, the company said in a tweet

What happened?

Details of the problem are thin on the ground, as BA has yet to resolve the problem. 

The airline, however, has said that the glitch affects two systems: one that deals with online check-in and the other handling flight departures, the BBC reports. 

The problem is currently impacting BA flights “across its network”, though “not at every airport”, the broadcaster notes. BA has said it is not a global problem. 

However, the Daily Mail says passengers due to fly from airports in Japan, India, the US and other European airports have also been affected.

One customer, for instance, said in a tweet that he was experiencing issues with the airline’s lost baggage claim forms in Toronto. 

“I’ve spent well over 5 hours inputting info for my son’s lost bag from Toronto to be told each time that due to tech faults ‘all your info has been lost’ even tho I signed in via exec club,” he said. 

Which flights are affected?

According to The Independent, 98 flights that were set to depart from or arrive at Heathrow and ten from Gatwick have been cancelled, though that figure may rise as BA continues to battle the IT fault. 

“Multiple flights to and from Barcelona, Berlin, Paris, Geneva, Zurich and Nice have been cancelled,” the news site says, “along with services to Athens, Istanbul, Larnaca, Palma, Rome, Split and Venice.”

Domestic flights from Heathrow have also been reported, as have “round-trips” from Gatwick to Glasgow, Jersey, Malaga, Naples and Venice, the site adds.

Can you claim a refund?

Yes, to an extent. Under the European Union’s Denied Boarding Regulation, which protects passengers flying from an EU airport, customers whose flight has been cancelled are entitled to either a refund or to be rebooked on to the next possible flight, according to The Sun.

BA says that customers on affected short-haul flights from Heathrow, Gatwick and London City will be offered alternative routes, the newspaper reports. These won’t be today, but will be offered between 8 and 13 August.

Customers impacted by the glitch may be able to claim a refund if their flight has been delayed by three hours or more, the paper adds. Those who opt for the refund can only do so on the leg of the journey that experienced delays or a full cancellation. 

What about compensation?

Customers may be eligible for compensation, too, as the airline appears to be at fault, The Guardian reports. 

Compensation is dictated by “distance and time”, the newspaper says. For instance, a three-hour delay for a short-haul flight could see customers compensated by around €250 (£230), which rises to €600 (£550) for cancelled long-haul flights. 

However, the Civil Aviation Authority, which oversees and regulates civilian air travel in the UK, says if delays are caused by “extraordinary circumstances” then the airline may not be liable for compensation. It remains to be seen whether a mass IT glitch falls within this category.

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