Willie Walsh breaks silence on British Airways fiasco

Huge IT failure stranded 75,000 passengers following damage to servers

“We invest billions in new equipment,” Willie Walsh said. Photograph: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

“We invest billions in new equipment,” Willie Walsh said. Photograph: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

 

IAG chief executive Willie Walsh, who had been silent in the media in the immediate aftermath of the British Airways fiasco, has admitted it damaged the company’s brand but denied that its IT centres were too old.

“We invest billions in new equipment. If investment is required, we make the investment,” Mr Walsh was quoted as saying by the Times of London.

A huge IT failure that stranded 75,000 British Airways passengers followed damage to servers that were overwhelmed when the power returned after an outage, the airline said.

BA, part of airline group IAG, is seeking to limit the damage to its reputation and has apologised to customers after hundreds of flights were cancelled over a long holiday weekend.

The airline provided a few more details of the incident in its latest statement. While there was a power failure at a data centre near Heathrow Airport in London, the damage was caused by an overwhelming surge once the electricity was restored, it said.

“There was a total loss of power at the data centre. The power then returned in an uncontrolled way, causing physical damage to the IT servers,” BA said in a statement. It was not an IT issue; it was a power issue.”

Investigations were continuing into the cause of the power surge, it added.

Indian outsourcing

BA had already, in a statement on Monday, spoken of an “exceptional power surge” so strong that it rendered the back-up system ineffective.

BA chief executive Alex Cruz has also rejected criticism from trade union GMB that the outage could have been avoided had it not decided to outsource IT staff to India.

Experts have questioned how a power surge in one location could knock out both a main IT system and a back-up system.

Rival airline Ryanair has said it has IT systems in three different locations to minimise the risks of a similar outage.

“It is unfortunate that an established airline such as British Airways has proven to be so vulnerable,” said Nadejda Popova, a travel project manager at Euromonitor.

“It has shown that they have poor risk management. This was an illustration of what not to do.”

  • Reuters
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