BA in turmoil

30 May 2017 | Lloyd Hughes

Airports aren’t generally the nicest experience at the best of times. The excitement of getting to your destination usually sees you through, but queues through security, lugging your bags about, struggling to find a seat while you wait, monitoring the departure gate, worrying about delays, all serve to make it a less than delightful process.

Pity then, the thousands of British Airways passengers stranded over the weekend due to an IT fault.

The bank holiday weekend and the opening weekend of many school’s half term week would have seen the airline anticipating a bumper weekend of fully booked flights. Now, however, it’s experienced a catastrophic couple of days – with the fallout from them anticipated to last much longer.

Flying in a traditionally busy period makes airport stress all the more profound, so to find yourself stranded in a flightless limbo was no doubt akin to torture for the 75,000 affected, who weren’t just dealing with the claustrophobic horrors of a packed airport, but also the disappointment of disrupted holiday plans.

I’m short-fused at the best of times when in a busy environment – supermarkets are a torment, motorway traffic is a nightmare, but a flight delay tops the lot. And that’s just on delays of a few hours. One couple had to delay their wedding thanks to half the bridal party and many guests being caught up in the chaos.

This type of disruptive incident is a PR horror show for any big brand – with the pain set to continue for months as BA’s reputation struggles to recover from it. According to the Guardian, IAG, BA’s parent company has already seen £500m wiped off its shares and that’s before its massive compensation bill, which is rumoured to be a likely £150m.

The terrible experience of its passengers has been compounded by emerging stories that suggest BA cut its IT costs by axing UK professionals and opting for cheaper (and seemingly less reliable) resource in India. The UK’s flagship airline taking these ‘strategic’ decisions doesn’t reflect well at all in light of such damaging failings, while the savings are no doubt now being far outstripped by the cost.

There were also tales of people paying extra money for upgraded seats to BA in order to get on the limited flights available, leading to calls that BA was looking to profit from the disaster. Although of course the eventual pay-out will top this extra income, it just serves to compound matters.

British Airways has been excoriated in the press on all sides following its IT meltdown so I can imagine senior executives have had a terrible bank holiday weekend – but probably not as bad as the thousands left stranded in airport hell.