British Airways has insisted that the catastrophic global IT failure this weekend that forced the company to cancel all flights from Heathrow and Gatwick airports on Saturday, and caused delays across the bank holiday weekend, was nothing to do with the IT outsourcing programme that has seen hundreds of roles outsourced to Tata, and transferred to India.
BA check-in desks and luggage handling systems went down on Saturday morning, and stayed down for the rest of the day. The company was forced to cancel flights until at least 6pm on Saturday, while flights on Sunday and bank holiday Monday were also delayed.
Over the weekend, the GMB trades union implied that the company's outsourcing of tasks and roles to India, made in a bid to save money, was the cause of the IT meltdown. "This could have all been avoided. In 2016 BA made hundreds of dedicated and loyal IT staff redundant and outsourced the work to India," said the GMB's Mick Rix, who accused BA of being "just plain greedy".
It's not the first IT failure following the outsourcing. Just four months after the transfer, computers running check-in desks for BA also failed, leading to long queues at airports around the world.
However, BA CEO Alex Cruz blamed a power surge at a BA data centre near Heathrow and the ensuing failure to restore services from its back-up systems. He also rejected outright early suggestions that the company had been subjected to a cyber attack.
UK Power Networks, which supplies power to Heathrow Airport, dismissed suggestions of a power surge. It claimed that there were no issues with the power network in the area over the weekend.
Regardless of what is to blame, the cost of the bank holiday weekend outage is likely to be well in excess of £100m. Independent aviation analyst Howard Wheeldon even suggested that the bill could be close to £250m, when compensation claims are taken into account.
British Airways flights from London Heathrow and Gatwick airports were cancelled following what the company described as a "global systems outage", which meant that the company could not board passengers or upload and track their luggage.
The outage was so severe, BA flights out of Heathrow and Gatwick were cancelled for much of the day, while BA flights around the world were also affected. The airline urged passengers with flights on Saturday not to turn up at either of the airports.
"We have experienced a major IT system failure that is causing very severe disruption to our flight operations worldwide," a BA spokesperson admitted.
They continued: "The terminals at Heathrow and Gatwick have become extremely congested and we have cancelled all flights from Heathrow and Gatwick before 6pm UK time today, so please do not come to the airports.
"We will provide more information on ba.com, Twitter and through airport communication channels as soon as we can for flights due to depart after that time.
"We will be updating the situation via the media regularly throughout the day.
"We are extremely sorry for the inconvenience this is causing our customers and we are working to resolve the situation as quickly as possible."
Parts of the airlines website, and its travel app also went down at the same time - indicating a wide-ranging IT failure.
The carrier tweeted its apologies to customers.
We apologise for the current IT systems outage. We are working to resolve the problem as quickly as possible.— British Airways (@British_Airways) May 27, 2017
In an angry atmosphere at Heathrow and Gatwick airports on Saturday, a pilot at BA even told passengers that the airline was under attack from hackers.
Commentators, quick off the mark on Saturday, also suggested that it could be down to a coding glitch.
Bill Curtis, senior vice president and chief scientist at CAST, said: "Airline computers juggle multiple systems that must interact to control gate, reservations, ticketing and frequent fliers.
"Each of those pieces may have been written separately by different companies. Even if an airline has backup systems, the software running those likely has the same coding flaw.
"Tracking down a software flaw can be very difficult. It's like investigating crime; there is a lot of data they've got to sift through to figure out what actually happened."
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