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British Airways cancels more than 100 flights as passengers tell of travel chaos

BA is using back-up and manual systems to try to cope with the problems.

British Airways aircraft at London’s Heathrow airport (Steve Parsons/PA)
British Airways aircraft at London’s Heathrow airport (Steve Parsons/PA)

British Airways has cancelled more than 100 flights at the UK’s two busiest airports after suffering IT problems with its check-in system.

Thousands of passengers were affected on Wednesday after the airline axed 117 flights due to operate to or from Heathrow and 10 at Gatwick, while delaying more than 300 others.

Images showed long queues of passengers at the London airports and error messages on the BA app as some services lagged more than five hours behind schedule.

Around 20,000 passengers have had flights cancelled and BA could face a compensation bill in excess of £8 million if all those affected claim what they are entitled to under European Union rules.

The airline is using back-up and manual systems to try to cope with the problems.

Darren Rowe, from the Cotswolds, said his 10.20am flight to Hamburg from Heathrow for business meetings was cancelled before “all chaos let loose”.

He said: “There were massive queues, it was queue here, queue there, nobody was saying anything. The lack of information was just pathetic.

“You’ve got young families in that queue, people going to weddings, birthdays, on business. They could have had somebody come around with water updating people about what was going on.”

A BA spokesman said: “We are very sorry to our customers for the disruption to their travel plans.

“We are working as quickly as possible to resolve a systems issue which has resulted in a number of cancellations and delays today.

“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 airline is offering short-haul passengers departing from Heathrow, Gatwick and London City the chance to re-book to another day between Thursday and next Tuesday.

BA’s IT problems come after it suffered a major computer failure over the spring bank holiday weekend in May 2017, stranding tens of thousands of passengers and costing owner AIG around £80 million.

On that occasion, the airline cancelled 726 flights due to a power failure, sparking a raft of compensation claims for flight costs, train and hotel expenses, replacement clothes and toiletries.

On Wednesday, holidaymakers had faced a struggle even getting to Gatwick after the Gatwick Express train service from London Victoria was cancelled.

A fire on the tracks between Victoria and Clapham Junction saw all early-morning Southern and Gatwick Express trains cancelled.

“Heavy residual delays” were expected to drag on and commuters were advised not to travel to the rail station, Southern said.

Tim Willcox said passengers were “seething” as he endured a “nightmare” start to a planned short break in Nice, France, with his wife Najah.

The BBC presenter was stranded on the 5.30am Gatwick Express for 20 minutes outside Victoria, put on another train which was also cancelled, and, as a result, missed his 7.25am flight.

He told PA: “Most flights are now either fully booked or have shot up in price or involve stopovers.

“I’m now on a bus. It’s just proving a bloody nightmare. I can’t afford to spend £1,000 on two flights.

“We’ve got car hire waiting, a hotel booked. We’re now looking at flying to Paris and then flying from Paris to Nice.

“There was a complete lack of communication from Gatwick Express, there was a very rude staff member who just wouldn’t answer questions. People were seething.”

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The fire on the tracks between Victoria and Clapham Junction (Southern Rail/PA)

Stephen MacCallaugh, general manager for Gatwick Express, said: “We apologise to everyone caught up in this morning’s disruption.

“We strive to give passengers excellent service and quality information. The lineside fire had only just been reported at the time Mr Willcox was travelling, indeed he was probably on the first train that encountered it.

“It was only after Network Rail investigated and then closed all four tracks that we could replan our services and update passengers with accurate information.”

BA, which has recently faced threatened strikes by pilots, is also set to be fined £183 million over a cyber attack on its security systems last year in which the personal data of up to 500,000 customers was stolen.

PA

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