British Airways Cancelled London Flights Due To IT System Failure

British Airways

British Airways cancelled all flights to/from London Heathrow Airport (LHR) and London Gatwick Airport (LGW) today due to an IT system failure.


British Airways

The IT system failure affected British Airways’ reservation system, baggage handling, mobile applications and check-in desk operations. Passengers who are already at airports have been asked to leave as there is nothing that can be done at the moment. The London based airline decided to cancel all flights out of its two biggest London airports due to congestions. The airline posted the following information on its main website for passengers who may be affected by the cancellations.

“Following the major IT system failure experienced earlier today, with regret we have had to cancel all flights leaving from Heathrow and Gatwick for the rest of today, Saturday, May 27.

We are working hard to get our customers who were due to fly today onto the next available flights over the course of the rest of the weekend. Those unable to fly will be offered a full refund.

The system outage has also affected our call centres and our website but we will update customers as soon as we are able to.

Most long-haul flights due to land in London tomorrow (Sunday, May 28) are expected to arrive as normal, and we are working to restore our services from tomorrow, although some delays and disruption may continue into Sunday.

We will continue to provide information on, Twitter and through airport communication channels.

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 during this busy holiday period.”


What Does It Mean To Travellers?

More than 1,000 flights have been affected so far. At Heathrow Airport, British Airways had over 400 flights scheduled to depart after 9am local time and a further 71 at Gatwick Airport, according to on Saturday, May 27,2017.  While travellers can rebook and cancel their booking at no charge, they would experience problems doing so as the airline’s website, mobile application and call centres are all affected at this IT system failure. If the traveller decides to stay on with British Airways, they are advised to wait until the airline fixes the problem. It should be noted that future bookings could involve their International Airlines Group partners Iberia and Aer Lingus or oneworld alliance partners such as American Airlines and Japan Airlines in the future.

Those that have urgent travel needs to London and beyond might be advised to buy a ticket on another airline quickly as capacity would be constrained due to strong last minute demand. They can cancel their British Airways booking afterwards for a refund.  Award flight availability to Europe and beyond might also be affected and reduced as a consequence to rebooking.

Those that purchased their tickets with online and traditional travel agents should contact them for additional flight choices and rebooking options. It is important to read the terms and conditions on the fare purchased to find out what the travel agents can perform (e.g. they may not be able to do anything for non-refundable tickets and would ask the traveller to wait and contact British Airways directly).  Travellers who got travel insurance by purchasing it individually or obtaining it through specific credit cards should consult with their provider for options to cover incidental expenses during this exceptional disruption.

Bill of Rights

Passengers are covered under EU 261/04 law to claim compensation for delayed or cancelled flights for services that departed within the EU or were operated by a European airline. The amount is determined by length and duration of the flight:

  • Up to three hours for short-haul flights (up to 1,500km or 930 miles) would net €250 (£218)
  • Medium-haul flights (between 1,500km to 3,500km) would net €400 (£349)
  • Long-haul flights (more than 3,500km or 2,175 miles) – delays of between three and four hours have compensation set at €300 (£262), longer than that would result in €600 (£524)

British Airways is required to provide affected passengers with food and drink vouchers for delays more than two hours. Hotel accommodation is required for overnight delays and transfers.

What Does It Mean To Airlines?

IT system failures can cause havoc to an airline’s flight operations that can last from a few hours to multiple days. Both Delta Air Lines and United Airlines experienced similar IT system failures that caused major delays for passengers for days. It is important for the airline to communicate and update confused passengers on a timely basis as it fixes the problems behind the scenes. The airline should waive charges to rebook and cancel any ticket in the meantime. All affected customers should be given an apology letter and provided some form of compensation for the inconvenience (e.g percentage off future flights or award miles). Premium cabin and VIP customers should be contacted directly or personally, if possible and be provided with options to fly on partner airline(s).

It is customary for airlines to create and test business continuity plans for this type of disruption.  Existing IT processes would allow the airline to coordinate with different departments to trace and resolve problems experienced.  It would also be beneficial to connect with key airport stakeholders to manage operations and passenger experience while the wait continues.

Experience will post an update on May 28, 2017.