A total of 95 British Airways flights, or 10percent of services, were cancelled by midday yesterday, while 210 flights, or 24percent, were delayed, according to Flight Aware, a Houston-based airline tracking service.
It added that 418 flights were scrapped at Heathrow airport and Gatwick, south of London, on Saturday and 568 were delayed.
The airline yesterday urged passengers without rebooked flights to stay home and check their website for updates.
British Airways had to scrap all Saturday afternoon and evening departures from Heathrow and Gatwick airports, following what it called a “very severe disruption” worldwide. It ordered passengers to leave the terminals and urged other travellers to stay at home.
The airline was aiming to operate the majority of its Heathrow departures yesterday and “a near normal schedule” from Gatwick, although aircraft and crews are out of position and have to be relocated during the night, it said in a website posting on Saturday. Portions of the system were restored on Saturday.
“We are extremely sorry for the huge inconvenience this is causing our customers, and we understand how frustrating this must be,” BA chief executive Alex Cruz said. “We believe the root cause was a power supply issue and we have no evidence of any cyber attack.”
The breakdown, which also affected call centres, prevented passengers from rebooking or from retrieving luggage that had already been loaded on to their planes.
Heathrow, in a tweet yesterday, said further delays and cancellations of BA flights are expected and urged travellers to check websites or BA’s Twitter feed before heading for the airport.
Travellers took to Twitter on Saturday in Europe to complain of flight postponements, long lines to check in, and waiting for long periods on the tarmac after boarding planes. Once services were cancelled, passengers from grounded planes or at gates at Heathrow endured large crowds at passport control desks to re-enter the country.
British Airways staff told customers to find hotels on their own for reimbursement later by the airline. Payments will include £200 (R3290) per night for lodging, a £50 round trip between the airport and the hotel, and as much as £25 for refreshments, according to leaflets from the company.
“I would estimate, given the timing of the bank holiday weekend, that this has affected a hundred flights and a thousand passengers already,” said John Strickland, director of aviation at analysts JLS Consulting. “Considering the reimbursements for cancelled flights and the costs of lodging stranded passengers, this will have an impact on revenue and the magnitude of the cost will depend on how long the outage lasts and how long it takes to resolve.”
Hotels near the airports were charging as much as £1000 pounds to £2500 for rooms for a night, the Sunday Telegraph reported.
The airline said it would seek to rebook customers “over the course off the rest of the weekend,” or offer full refunds if a passenger is unable to fly.
The disruption coincides with the start of the annual end-of-May Bank Holiday weekend in the UK, as well as the three-day Memorial Day weekend regarded as the unofficial start of summer in the US.
Last September, a computer network failure brought down British Airways’ check-in system, causing worldwide service delays, while earlier this week, London's Gatwick airport reported problems with its baggage-sorting system.