Fury of families stranded at Heathrow after British Airways cancelled all short-haul flights | #cybersecurity | #cyberattack


Are you caught up in the flight chaos or missing your luggage?

Email elmira.tanatarova@mailonline.co.uk

stephen.wynn-davies@mailonline.co.uk 

British Airways passengers have criticised the ‘absolute chaos’ at London’s Heathrow Airport after all short-haul flights on Saturday morning were cancelled due to a major IT outage.

The issue has also caused flight delays, with passengers stuck on planes after landing at the airport and baggage piling up.

A BA spokeswoman said that the issue is still ongoing, but the website ba.com is working and ‘customers can check-in online and at the airport’.

It is also understood that BA is operating the vast majority of flights for the rest of the day.

‘A number of systems are coming back,’ she added.

BA’s statement said: ‘We are extremely sorry that due to the continuing technical issues we are facing we have regrettably had to cancel a significant number of short-haul flights from Heathrow today.

‘Customers due to travel later today should check their flight status on ba.com before coming to the airport as we anticipate further disruption during the day.

‘Our long-haul services at Heathrow and all flights at Gatwick and London City Airport are due to operate as planned, but customers may experience some delays.

‘We are offering customers on cancelled services the option of a refund or to rebook onto another service. We will be contacting customers proactively.

‘Our teams have been working hard through the night and will continue to do so to resolve the issue as soon as possible.

‘We advise our customers due to travel today to check ba.com for the latest flight information before coming to the airport.

‘We know we have let our customers down and we will do everything we can to make this up to them – but for now our focus is on getting as many customers and flights away as we can.’

The airline has also confirmed the issue is not a cyber attack, and relates to a hardware issue it is ‘working hard to resolve’.

It added: ‘We regrettably had to cancel all short-haul flights from Heathrow until midday today, and have cancelled a number of further short-haul flights this afternoon.’

The airline said the problem, which may also cause delays for its customers using Gatwick and London City Airport, is related to a hardware issue and is not because of a cyber attack.

Hundreds of people have been queuing outside Heathrow’s Terminal 5 on Saturday with staff only letting passengers into the building an hour before their flight, due to the backlog inside.

BA earlier refused to confirm to MailOnline how many flights had been cancelled, and how long delays would last but will operate the ‘vast majority’ of flights for the rest of the day.

Dr Penny Slaney, 62, a consultant radiologist from Worcestershire, told the PA news agency the situation has been ‘absolute chaos’ and the lack of communication from BA has been ‘appalling’.

Some passengers were handed a letter from BA which said they were cancelling more flights throughout Saturday.

It read: ‘Unfortunately we have also had to take the significant decision to cancel many of our other short-haul flights today while we work on the issues which is why there are no options to fly on a later service on Saturday 26th February.

‘We know this is incredibly frustrating but we don’t want to offer you a flight which is at risk of cancellation again and causes you further issues and uncertainty.’

BA said long-haul flights are still operating, but customers may experience some delays.

In a statement, BA said: ‘We are extremely sorry that due to the continuing technical issues we are facing we have regrettably had to cancel all short-haul flights from Heathrow today until midday.

‘Customers due to travel later today should check their flight status on ba.com before coming to the airport as we anticipate further disruption during the day.

‘We know we have let our customers down and we will do everything we can to make this up to them – but for now our focus is on getting as many customers and flights away as we can.’ 

A Heathrow spokesman said: ‘Due to the technical issues affecting British Airways systems earlier today, there could be some knock-on disruption to flights this afternoon.

‘Passengers should continue to check the status of their flight with British Airways before travelling to the airport. We continue to work with our airline partners to minimise the impact this could have to passenger journeys.’ 

Passengers queuing at Heathrow Airport on Saturday morning after British Airways cancelled all short haul flights

Passengers queue at the arrivals entrance to terminal five at Heathrow Airport on Saturday morning

Passengers queue at the arrivals entrance to terminal five at Heathrow Airport on Saturday morning

The airline said the problem, which may also cause delays for its customers using Gatwick and London City Airport, is related to a hardware issue and is not because of a cyber attack

The airline said the problem, which may also cause delays for its customers using Gatwick and London City Airport, is related to a hardware issue and is not because of a cyber attack

Passengers have reported receiving emails about flight cancellations just two hours in advance and after they had arrived at the airport

Passengers have reported receiving emails about flight cancellations just two hours in advance and after they had arrived at the airport

A member of staff checks passenger boarding passes at the entrance of Heathrow Airport terminal five

A member of staff checks passenger boarding passes at the entrance of Heathrow Airport terminal five

British Airways said it had not been attacked and insisted that it was just a ‘technical issue’

On Saturday morning, BA said long-haul flights are still operating, but customers may experience some delays

On Saturday morning, BA said long-haul flights are still operating, but customers may experience some delays

A check in board at Heathrow Airport's terminal five showed a number of cancellations on Saturday morning

A check in board at Heathrow Airport’s terminal five showed a number of cancellations on Saturday morning

Dr Slaney said she and her daughter were due to be on the 9.15am flight to Salzburg for a holiday before their travel agent managed to move them to the 12.30 flight – but both were cancelled.

‘The lack of communication is the primary issue. We heard about the IT issue from a fellow passenger,’ Dr Slaney said.

She said their family have not been on holiday for three years and are missing a day of their week-long break in Austria.

‘There was no information from BA at all – nothing. The news has told us more about what is going on,’ Dr Slaney said.

Passengers expressed their frustrations as they directed questions at the airline and Heathrow Airport on social media following today's delays

Passengers expressed their frustrations as they directed questions at the airline and Heathrow Airport on social media following today’s delays

‘It has been absolute chaos. I could organise this better’, she said, adding that the staff at the terminal doors checking passenger details looked freezing without any warm clothing.

‘They said to us when we got to the door to “go home”. I think that is very poorly managed.’

BA’s website and app were inaccessible for hours on Friday evening, preventing customers from checking in online or booking flights.

On Saturday morning, the airline advised customers to check the website for the latest flight information before coming to the airport.

In a statement, BA said: ‘We are extremely sorry that due to the continuing technical issues we are facing we have regrettably had to cancel all short-haul flights from Heathrow today until midday.

‘Customers due to travel later today should check their flight status on ba.com before coming to the airport as we anticipate further disruption during the day.’

Drew Brennan, his wife, and their six month old son were due to fly from Heathrow to Lisbon at 12pm but their flight was cancelled when they arrived at the airport at 9.30am.

He said they managed to rebook onto a flight this evening but would have to manage a seven hour delay with a young baby as well as arriving at Lisbon late at night.

He told MailOnline: ‘Staff told us they couldn’t help assist in rebooking and had to use app, which was intermittently down. 

‘Initial thought could be a cyber attack but BA seems to have confirmed that their own IT issues.

‘In light of war in Ukraine is a minor inconvenience but still very frustrating.’

Another BA passenger who was due to fly to Lanzarote from Heathrow at 7.50am today said she only received an email from the airline informing them of the cancellation at 6.15am.  

Passengers scroll through their plans as they attempt to sort their travel arrangements after flights were cancelled at Heathrow

Passengers scroll through their plans as they attempt to sort their travel arrangements after flights were cancelled at Heathrow

A member of staff checks passenger boarding passes at the entrance of Heathrow Airport Terminal five

A member of staff checks passenger boarding passes at the entrance of Heathrow Airport Terminal five

A passengers stares at the check-in board at Heathrow Airport as cancellations stacked up on Saturday morning

A passengers stares at the check-in board at Heathrow Airport as cancellations stacked up on Saturday morning

BA said long-haul flights were not being cancelled on Saturday morning but advised passengers to expect delays

BA said long-haul flights were not being cancelled on Saturday morning but advised passengers to expect delays

On Saturday morning, Heathrow Airport tweeted to say BA's 'technical issues' were continuing

On Saturday morning, Heathrow Airport tweeted to say BA’s ‘technical issues’ were continuing

Passengers due to fly with BA on Saturday morning experienced cancellations, while electronic boards at Heathrow showed major disruption

Passengers due to fly with BA on Saturday morning experienced cancellations, while electronic boards at Heathrow showed major disruption

Customers criticise Heathrow ‘chaos’ 

British Airways passengers have criticised the “absolute chaos” at London’s Heathrow Airport.

Dr Penny Slaney, 62, a consultant radiologist from Worcestershire, told the PA news agency the situation has been ‘absolute chaos’ and the lack of communication from BA has been ‘appalling’.

Dr Slaney said she and her daughter were due to be on the 9.15am flight to Salzburg for a holiday before their travel agent managed to move them to the 12.30 flight – but both were cancelled.

‘The lack of communication is the primary issue. We heard about the IT issue from a fellow passenger’, Dr Slaney said.

She said their family have not been on holiday for three years and are missing a day of their week-long break in Austria.

‘There was no information from BA at all – nothing. The news has told us more about what is going on’, Dr Slaney said.

‘It has been absolute chaos. I could organise this better’, she said, adding that the staff at the terminal doors checking passenger details looked freezing without any warm clothing.

‘They said to us when we got to the door to “go home”. I think that is very poorly managed.’

Paolo Camara, 41, who is going through Heathrow in transit from Istanbul to his home in Jersey with his friend Francisco Costa, 38, said the situation is a ‘nightmare’.

‘As soon as I arrived here, I got a message saying our next flight was cancelled’, he said, adding that they had paid £1,400 between them for their flights.

‘We have tried ringing BA but nobody will answer. It is very confused.’

‘It’s just a nightmare’, he added.

‘There is only one more flight to Jersey today and if that doesn’t go, we will have to stay in a hotel.

‘We have been travelling for seven hours. I just want to go home and relax.’

Mr Costa said: ‘This is the last time I use these guys. Next time I use a different company.’

Susan Watson, who is in her mid-40s and works in London, said she was booked on the 12.15pm flight to travel to Aberdeen for work and to see family.

‘I have got my godson’s 21st birthday party this evening so I was hoping to be there for that,’ she said.

‘I’m disappointed for both reasons, for work and for seeing my family and friends, so it is not ideal.’

Joe Griffin, 29, and Janelle Yee, 28, both from London, said their 9pm flight to Geneva was cancelled on Friday night after they had checked in.

After staying in a hotel, they booked a new flight for 3pm on Saturday but would be unable to get their checked bags back from BA before their holiday.

Mr Griffin said: ‘We were supposed to fly at 9pm and then it was delayed and after waiting at the gate for an hour one of the pilots came out and said they didn’t know what was happening.

‘They said “go to a hotel” and when the system was back and running, they would automatically book us on but this didn’t happen.

‘So we’ve booked a flight for 3pm today but who knows what will happen.

‘I think they can’t do anything about it, and without the system they are just screwed’, he said, adding that he will cancel his annual leave and ‘be back in work on Monday morning’ if their flight doesn’t go ahead.

Ms Yee, who was worried their insurance might not cover the situation, added: “I don’t know what to say anymore. We should have booked EasyJet.’  

Paolo Camara, 41, who is going through Heathrow in transit from Istanbul to his home in Jersey with his friend Francisco Costa, 38, said the situation is a ‘nightmare’.

‘As soon as I arrived here, I got a message saying our next flight was cancelled’, he said, adding that they had paid £1,400 between them for their flights.

‘We have tried ringing BA but nobody will answer. It is very confused.

‘It’s just a nightmare.

‘There is only one more flight to Jersey today and if that doesn’t go, we will have to stay in a hotel.

‘We have been travelling for seven hours. I just want to go home and relax.’

Mr Costa said: ‘This is the last time I use these guys. Next time I use a different company.’

At Heathrow on Friday evening, passengers claimed staff had suggested ‘it was probably down to Putin and cyber attacks’.

But BA said it was just a ‘technical issue’.

A source familiar with the situation told MailOnline: ‘It’s absolutely not the case a cyber attack has been carried out.

‘This is a technical issue and all flights are still operating and customers are being checked in.’

BA said it is offering customers on cancelled services options including a full refund and all passengers booked to travel on short-haul services from Heathrow on Saturday can rebook to a later date for free.

The airline said it will be contacting customers proactively, adding: ‘Our teams have been working hard through the night and will continue to do so to resolve the issue as soon as possible.

‘We advise our customers due to travel today to check ba.com for the latest flight information before coming to the airport.’

Photographs of departure boards in Heathrow Terminal 5 showed few flights boarding, while people complained on social media about a lack of information.

Tom O’Regan said he was due to fly from Heathrow to Naples but his flight was cancelled with ‘barely three hours notice’. He said nobody was answering the phone, leaving him and his two young children ‘little choice but to go to the airport’.

Another customer said she was told her flight from Heathrow – which she was taking to see her nephew on his birthday – was cancelled while she made her way to the airport this morning. 

Paolo Bischi advised other customers flying from Heathrow to ‘not waste time today, stay home’ after not being allowed inside the airport.

Maria Rua Aguete said her BA flight to Barcelona from Heathrow had been cancelled on Saturday morning. 

On Saturday morning, a spokesman for Heathrow Airport added: ‘There is ongoing disruption this morning due to British Airways technical issues which we are supporting them to resolve.

‘We request that passengers check the status of their flight with their airline before travelling to the airport. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.’

It is BA’s second outage in 10 days and the latest of several high-profile IT incidents to hit the airline. 

Susan Watson, who is in her mid-40s and works in London, said she was booked on the 12.15pm flight to travel to Aberdeen for work and to see family.

‘I have got my godson’s 21st birthday party this evening so I was hoping to be there for that’, she said.

‘I’m disappointed for both reasons, for work and for seeing my family and friends, so it is not ideal.’

Joe Griffin, 29, and Janelle Yee, 28, both from London, said their 9pm flight to Geneva was cancelled on Friday night after they had checked in.

After staying in a hotel, they booked a new flight for 3pm on Saturday but would be unable to get their checked bags back from BA before their holiday.

Mr Griffin said: ‘We were supposed to fly at 9pm and then it was delayed and after waiting at the gate for an hour one of the pilots came out and said they didn’t know what was happening.

‘They said “go to a hotel” and when the system was back and running, they would automatically book us on but this didn’t happen.

‘So we’ve booked a flight for 3pm today but who knows what will happen.

‘I think they can’t do anything about it, and without the system they are just screwed’, he said, adding that he will cancel his annual leave and ‘be back in work on Monday morning’ if their flight doesn’t go ahead. 

Ms Yee, who was worried their insurance might not cover the situation, added: ‘I don’t know what to say anymore. We should have booked EasyJet.’ 

The issue is also affecting passengers who are attempting to fly into Heathrow. 

Emma Jewell said she is currently ‘stranded’ in Iceland with no idea of when she will be able to get home after her flight to Heathrow was cancelled.

She told MailOnline that her suitcase was left in London when she flew out to Iceland leaving her ‘with no clothes or appropriate footwear’.

She added: ‘British airways do not answer the phone and there is no option to book another flight through the “manage my booking” area on their website.

‘British Airways have been in the news before with system issues. Is it not time they upgrade to ensure this does not happen again?’

Hayat Wahab said he is currently stuck in Istanbul, Turkey, for two more nights after his 5.30pm flight to Heathrow was cancelled. 

He said he will have to pay extra accommodation costs himself after receiving ‘no instruction’ from BA. 

Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said: ‘Ongoing technical issues don’t fill consumers with much confidence.

‘Many people have saved up during lockdown to get away at the first opportunity and some are now finding that computers, not Covid, are preventing their getaway.

‘BA needs to be transparent on what’s causing these issues and how soon they will be fixed.’ 

Passengers onboard BA flights claimed staff had blamed problems on 'probable cyber attack'

Passengers onboard BA flights claimed staff had blamed problems on ‘probable cyber attack’

Ed Hall, 54, a television executive from Woodstock, Oxfordshire, was stuck on a plane for over an hour after landing at Heathrow Terminal 5 because the crew could not access any IT systems to get a stand where passengers could disembark.

He said there were issues even before his BA 399 flight took off from Brussels.

Mr Hall told PA: ‘We couldn’t take off as the pilot’s system that calculates weight, loads and distribution went offline and we had to go back to the gate from the runway to get a (manual) copy sent from London.

‘BA is running on paper tonight’.

Once he finally disembarked, baggage was piling up from passengers stuck on other flights, he said.

Mr Hall added that a friend waiting for a long-haul flight in Terminal 5 was having to board manually.

Departure screens were completely blank at Heathrow after the computer system failure

Departure screens were completely blank at Heathrow after the computer system failure

He said later on Twitter: ‘Pilot on BA 399: “There might be more reasons for the IT problems we’ve had in the last few days, Eastern Europe perhaps” Plane on taxiway at LHR as ‘frequencies’ not working at Terminal 5 and no idea when we will get a stand. Are we under cyber attack?’

Another passenger added: ‘I’m at Terminal 5 your staff are telling me no flights going because the entire computer system is down here. Not just BA. They saying it’s probably down to Putin and cyber attacks.’

Photographs of departure boards in Terminal 5 showed few flights boarding.

Sophia Prout, 33, from London, waited in Terminal 5 for her BA flight to Lisbon, scheduled for 7.05pm, until it was cancelled just after 9pm.

She said it was ‘frustrating’ that technical issues were ongoing as she had been waiting for a total of four hours after checking in at around 5pm when only a few of the desks were working.

Ms Prout said she had arrived early because she could not check in online.

She said: ‘We’re lucky that we can turn around and go home if the flight gets cancelled, but would be nice to get an idea of when/if we will take off’. 

Last summer BA settled a legal claim over a major data breach that affected 420,000 customers and staff.

The breach in 2018 included the leaking of names, addresses and card payment details and led to the Information Commissioner’s Office handing out a fine of £20 million.

On July 18, 2018, computer problems hit BA operations at Heathrow and the airline cancelled a number of short-haul flights after the incident involving a ‘supplier IT system’.

In May 2017, 75,000 bank holiday travellers were stranded after a glitch forced the airline to cancel nearly 726 flights over three days.

The outage was suspected to have been caused by human error after an engineer disconnected and then reconnected a power supply to the data centre in an ‘uncontrolled and uncommanded fashion’.

The meltdown was blamed by some on aggressive cost-cutting and outsourcing of jobs.  

**Are you caught up in the flight chaos or missing your luggage? Email stephen.wynn-davies@mailonline.co.uk** 



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