BA boss: human error could be to blame for IT shutdown

Passengers queuing at Heathrow airport terminal 5, after British Airways cancelled all flights from Gatwick and Heathrow as computer problems caused disruption worldwide. Picture: Emily Wilson/PA Wire
Passengers queuing at Heathrow airport terminal 5, after British Airways cancelled all flights from Gatwick and Heathrow as computer problems caused disruption worldwide. Picture: Emily Wilson/PA Wire
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The British Airways IT shutdown which left 75,000 bank holiday travellers stranded may have been caused by human error, airline boss Willie Walsh has suggested.

Mr Walsh, chief executive of BA owner International Airlines Group (IAG), said the actions of an engineer who disconnected and then reconnected a power supply to the data centre in “an uncontrolled and uncommanded fashion” may be central to a newly ordered independent investigation.

Mr Walsh, who was at the International Air Transport Association global summit in Mexico, reported in The Guardian, said: “You could cause a mistake to disconnect the power, it’s difficult for me to understand how you can mistakenly reconnect the power.”

He said “physical damage to the servers and distribution panels” was caused which made it difficult for BA to quickly overcome the power outage.

Mr Walsh suggested in The Guardian this “in itself was a problem that we could have overcome probably in a couple of hours, I don’t think it would have led to any cancellations”.

Of the fed-up passengers who complained they had been left to queue before leaving Heathrow Airport, he said: “I wouldn’t suggest for one minute we got communications right at BA, we didn’t.”

The carrier was unable to resume a full schedule until the following Tuesday.

Mr Walsh, who was BA’s chief executive before taking charge of its parent company, defended cost-cutting measures.

BA was accused of greed after the GMB union suggested the issue could have been prevented if the airline had not cut “hundreds of dedicated and loyal” IT staff and contracted the work to India last year.