An exact repeat of this situation makes it seem like such failures are becoming routine for BA.
An even more 'routine' practice is overbooking. In my latest trip to Warsaw (using Polish Airlines / LOT) they overbooked by 10 people in a plane with less than 100.
We bought the tickets one month in advance and had reserved seats, but it seems until you check in you are not guaranteed to be on board. Truly disgusting practice.
If the airlines were just required to never do this, they'd obviously have to increase ticket prices, the prices today factor in the reality that they overbook because it works fine most of the time. Ban it and the prices rise because the costs don't change but the number of tickets sold falls.
If you're OK with higher ticket prices, you can already buy a more expensive ticket, which will mean you're not going to get bumped (because involuntarily bumping people on a more expensive ticket costs them more money) so you can already experience this alternate world today.
Without this level of transparency it is impossible for me, as a single consumer, to make an informed decision about my purchase, because perhaps the most important part of the product--the likelihood of arriving at my destination at the time advertised on the website--is opaque to me.
What's worse, there is a moral hazard here, as the airline is incentivized to overbook by as much as possible to eliminate any possibility of an empty seat on the flight, while they are not legally obligated to inform customers of the degree to which they are overbooking. The market only works when information is free and complete. When an airline overbooks by such a large margin, it's a breakdown in the air travel market.
The airline has to compensate bumped passengers as well as rearranging their flight. It's the same as cancelling the flight as far as that passenger is concerned. As you see in other threads the EU requires up to €600 per passenger monetary compensation as well as any other needs. Far from having an incentive to overbook "as much as possible" this means airlines are probably going to lose money on a flight that involuntarily bumps passengers, because the margins in budget air travel are slim.
You call the helpdesk to be told "speak to airport staff at the BA desk".
... see above. :)
It's just less of a problem for them to find a passenger willing to take a later flight voluntarily. They offer 300 to 500 euro (usually in flight credits), which to an audience that paid around 50 euro for their ticket is a great deal. Especially if it's a holiday trip where they don't mind as much arriving a few hours later.
Luckily we got notified well before anyone got to the airport and managed to book train tickets instead.
Definitely dodgy, Airbus were not even invited to tender.
It's interesting to see the breakdown of automation. Lines are long yes, but they also don't move because everyone's situation takes half an hour to explain and lots of manual labor to resolve. There's sort of this competitive mentality (leading to frustration) because there are some alternate options (like flights on competing airlines) but every time you refresh, the options dwindle and you can't do anything about it without an agent. They also have run out of hotel vouchers and hotels at the airport are full. They've started processing people by just writing down our concerns and giving us a pager to reduce the length of the line.
I think a lot of this could be resolved with a better auto-booking and notification system. Like n interface that lets you enter in your constraints, and it optimizes for you better than a person can do by hand.
Case in point.. a few weeks ago, I was flying Delta from their hub in ATL to my home city, about 300 miles away. There were flight cancellations due to severe weather all evening. The lines to speak to agents were almost as long as the entire terminal. Lines were 20-30 people long even in the Skyclub.
My 9pm flight kept getting delayed, and delayed, and delayed. It was finally cancelled at 12:30a just as I was about to board. Rather than wait in a line for a hotel voucher, I brought up my Marriott app and booked something myself. When I got to my hotel, I saw that Delta had auto-rebooked me on a flight leaving the next night. So I rented a car from a suburban Hertz location (all the cars at the airport were gone). In line at the rental car place the next morning, I talked to several people whose flights were cancelled. By the time they'd waited in the lines, all the hotel rooms were gone and they had slept on the floor at the airport.
I arrived home around 5pm, 3 hours before the rebooked flight was scheduled to leave (and yes, it was delayed). Delta refunded me for that leg of the trip, which just about covered the rental car.
My original path was BHM -> ATL -> RIC. My friend and I were traveling back together as far as ATL, then he was going to a different city. We got a notification that the BHM -> ATL leg was delayed, and we'd miss our connections in ATL. That prompted us to rent a car and drive from BHM->ATL. We got the last car Hertz had, a $200 Cadillac, so we rented it. Two other guys from the same flight piled in the back of the car, and we drove to ATL.
In hindsight, it would have been better to just drive to my friend's city, since he was on my way home.. Skipping ATL would have gotten me home hours earlier.
The gate staff should just let anyone onboard with a legit ticket or a sufficient story about buying one.
Sure, some people might get a free ride, or a few legit ticket holders can't get on because the plane is full, but overall, most passengers end up happy.
Simple things like "the pilot can't log in to the HR system so he gets paid for the flight" should be fixed with a combination of process changes and "let's just fly now, make paper records, and fix the computer records later"
Communication systems should have a backup of a large box of walkie-talkies in every airport so that, for example, the baggage staff can radio to the pilot to let him know they are done loading.
For EU flights especially you still check passports at the gate - indeed it's the only place they are checked.
For other flights they normally check visas at the checkin desk, but if you're transferring you usually get visa checked at the gate. Most people have nice simple visas that pretty much anyone can check, a few troublemakers like me rely on more complex timatic rules (say TWOV in Beijing on multiple tickets), but no reason that can't be checked at gate either.
Which countries? I fly a lot NL<>ES, ES<>DE and they don't check my passport usually. I do take it because sometimes they ask for it, but mostly they don't.
The UK obviously being the outlier; very paranoid with extremely old scanners so security takes a long time, especially at Heathrow.
I don't believe they run any inter-schengen or other "domestic" flights, and the 5th freedom flights they do run are like Singapore to Sydney so attract passport viewing.
Security is irelevent to BA's problems.
Airlines like Ryanair do check photo ID on domestic, but that's for revenue purposes (to stop people selling tickets on the black market)
The Police do have far-reaching powers under the fascist "Schedule 7" of the terrorism act 2000 to demand ID of some sort in certain circumstances, but that's not unique to flying.
You don't realise how much IT is involved in the process of loading a plane. Just the weight and balance calculation will take a very long time if done manually.
"BA said it is reverting to manual systems for check-in at airports."
The problem is that the manual process is slower and once a flight gets too delayed then it misses its slot and if too many flights get delayed it causes cascading problems since there aren't enough free later slots to put them in and you have to cancel.
If BA put aircraft in the air without any idea who was on them, they’d be rapidly forced to land again with the threat of being shot down.
I was waiting in the lounge as it kept being delayed further and further, with the standard 'go to gate' message. Unfortunately they were also slow at updating the status and it went seamlessly into 'gate closed'. I ran to the gate, but was too late. The staff there seemed surprised that they'd missed me - they weren't even aware they were missing a passenger.
The fun then started trying to get my bag back. Copenhagen airport made me wait around for hours for my bag to arrive at the designated unloading carousel, and wouldn't open a missing bag ticket. Eventually they had to concede it had gone missing somewhere after I found the baggage handler who'd unloaded some bags from my flight saying he hadn't unloaded mine. They still wouldn't admit it had flown ahead of me, even as a possibility.
When I then got to Helsinki on the next flight, I went to the counter and told them they had my bag. Again they told me there was no possibility they had it, and wouldn't even look. So I gave them my ticket number and left. They found my bag shortly after I left, of course.
Not in the US...
Even back in the 90s - just a few years after Lockerbie - we had some UK guests staying with us. We flew from Detroit to Vegas for a few days. They're luggage got put on a different plane, and ended up in LA. They were horrified and couldn't figure out why their luggage was on a flight they weren't on.
Doesn't seem to be a big concern in the US, as I've had my own luggage get on wrong flights at least twice in the past 5 years, and I don't actually fly all that much (2-3 flights a year max).
> let anyone onboard with […] sufficient story about buying one
> some people might get a free ride
As dagw’s comment points out they’re using the pen and paper approach; however, it takes longer and missed slots/out of place crews can cascade catastrophically.
It is far easier to fly to Switzerland than to the UK.
If someone does not board; their luggage is removed from the hold for security reasons. To do so, safely, would require so much communication between flight and ground staff, that I'm not sure either staff would know how to begin without the middle-ware.
That's insane - that'd never happen. There's no way they can take that security and immigration risk. I bet they can't even do that if they want to - I'm sure governments need to know all travellers precisely.
Even on a good day it’s 50/50 whether it can find my bookings.
1. Where reference is made to this Article, passengers shall be offered free of charge:
(a) meals and refreshments in a reasonable relation to the waiting time;
(b) hotel accommodation in cases where a stay of one or more nights becomes necessary, or where a stay additional to that intended by the passenger becomes necessary;
(c) transport between the airport and place of accommodation(hotel or other).
2.In addition, passengers shall be offered free of charge two telephone calls, telex or fax messages, or e-mails.
3.In applying this Article, the operating air carrier shall pay particular attention to the needs of persons with reduced mobility and any persons accompanying them, as well as to the needs of unaccompanied children.
Personally I love my right to a telex.
The EU has both Regulations (like this) and Directives. A Directive says that member governments need to make a law that achieves something, but leaves it to them to figure out the details. A Regulation (like 261/2004) doesn't leave it to national government, it's the same across the entire EU.
BA were required (as a condition of operating an airline anywhere in the EU) to obey these regulations.
I have a hard time imagining, say, EasyJet doing any sort of compensation they aren't required by law to do.
As with all things brexit, the goal is to remove our rights
There has been enforcement action though
This is what happens when you treat "IT" as a cost centre and outsource it to India with TCS, Tech Mahindra, Wipro, Accenture etc. In the case of BA; its Tata Consultancy Service (TCS).
I can't comment on outsourcing to Phillipines, Ukraine or Malaysia.
I've worked with two companies that did their outsourcing to India and it was a shitshow.
First and foremost there is the cultural barrier, sure India is a very Anglicized country but it has so many localised languages (Malalayam, Telugu, Tamil etc.) and cultures that means communication between one IT centre in Bangalore is very different to one in Chennai or Pune.
+ Compounded with the fact that outsourcing companies distribute the work between IT centres in different regions, it can be hard communicating and organising work.
Secondly, there are brilliant Devs/Testers/Analysts in India but they move around a lot because the pay is so terrible. Therefore a lot of undocumented knowledge gets lost which inevitably causes problems when doing maintenance or solving outages. One week you are working with a brilliant person, the next week they are gone.
Thirdly, the sales people at many outsourcing companies are brilliant. They promise the world, then for the first three months keep the clients happy. Then there is always a slump in service / performance as the "dream team", the sales people use to wow the clients move onto the next company they are trying to woo.
Fourthly, when the offshoring occurs, the transmission of knowledge sharing is very hard. The local people who are being let go won't be too facilitating in this documentation as well which is understandable.
Finally, just the geographical aspect. Teleconferencing, skyping etc. really adds an overhead and slows down productivity.
I'm going to finish with an anecdote, which makes you really appreciate the contrast. I was working on a project, reviewing code submitted by a dev from offshore. This was during monsoon season, a couple of days later I found out the person died in the monsoon due to a severe localised flooding in the place he was living just outside the city.
I live in Scotland which is a wet place, but we don't have to worry about drowning or losing our homes to flooding in most cases :(
> Therefore a lot of undocumented knowledge gets lost which inevitably causes problems when doing maintenance or solving outages. One week you are working with a brilliant person, the next week they are gone.
I had the same experience with outsourced work to India. Like every place, they have many "rockstar" developers, but these guys do not stay in the same company for too long, an even if they do they don't stay in the same hands-on job for too long and as soon as they move up they will not code anymore themselves, because it is below their pay grade. In India particularly hierarchy plays a huge part in culture and once someone is at a level where coding is seen as "too low" there is nothing you can do to get them continue their job. A company I once worked for even offered a pay rise to their Indian rockstar devs, but wanted them to keep coding and they rather refused the pay rise than doing the "low" work again.
> Thirdly, the sales people at many outsourcing companies are brilliant. They promise the world, then for the first three months keep the clients happy. Then there is always a slump in service / performance as the "dream team", the sales people use to wow the clients move onto the next company they are trying to woo.
I think it's better to hire developers directly and employ them rather than hire developers through a big agency. You won't avoid the staff turnover overall, but it will happen at a much slower frequency.
In essence, unless a company intends to have major offices in the region and that it may be interested in becoming an outsourcing agency in the future, it may not make sense business wise.
This was probably about 8 or 9 years ago now but the guys from India I workeded with at a BigCo (i.e. both me and them were at the same BigCo) were saying that as soon as they get some real experience of working hands-on and directly with engineers from the UK (and I presume the US as well) then that is seen as a huge thing in terms of their career and they'd be fools not to cash in on that. So you'd work with someone for 6 months, maybe 9, then they'd move to a competitor for a big promotion and a 50% pay rise for their proven skills in working with people from the UK.
You can't blame them for that. Sometimes you have got to play the system to get ahead, because sure as hell the system won't care for you :)
We had IT support outsourced for all (almost. some branch with government contracts was able to resist) our F500 companies offices. Local IT was let go and replaced by freelancers that have been hired by a company IBM outsourced local IT to.
So we're having: IBM (India) -> outsourcing company (local country) -> freelancers
The local freelancers obviously have no idea, experience or even motivation to stay at the job following phone orders from the operators in India.
This works if you have to do minor things like install a program on a client PC or similar. It becomes risky and ridiculous at server level.
In the end not even basic support worked. People we expensively recruited left because the laptop they've been provided did not work with the company network months later. System outages stretching throughout the continents or even worldwide. Customer satisfaction falling. Angry employees.
The guy who initiated the deal left the company. Probably with a nice bonus from IBM and management is stuck with the situation instead of dropping the contract comes up with useless justifications that are probably delivered to them by IBM.
In the end what might have looked good on that excel sheet ( IT staff salaries vs. IBM contract), causes costs that are not easily put into numbers (we had an account where we could charge time that was wasted due to IT issues. It was closed within a few weeks).
> Fourthly, when the offshoring occurs, the transmission of knowledge sharing is very hard. The local people who are being let go won't be too facilitating in this documentation as well which is understandable.
This sounds like a setting expectations issue. Developers are expected to write code, write tests, and troubleshoot issues. Why not also expect them to produce written documentation? Every job I've ever applied for states "must be proficient in written / oral communication" in the job requirements.
Just be clear about your expectations up front (when you are signing the contract) and this will not be an issue.
If it does become an issue, sue them for breaching the contract. It's the same way any other B2B sale would work - if the company I hire to clean my offices uses a toxic cleaning product, I'm going to sue them for creating a hazardous workplace.
> Finally, just the geographical aspect. Teleconferencing, skyping etc. really adds an overhead and slows down productivity.
I strongly disagree with this. It sounds like a company culture problem. Plenty of companies are fully remote, and many companies have remote workers. Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams, and Slack are all really great at allowing people to communicate.
If anything, it might be a lack of training on how people can use these tools.
Now geographically it does make a difference. You need to be more deliberate about planning your meetings - someone in EST needs to schedule meetings with someone in India in the afternoon only. They can't just schedule a meeting whenever they please.
They often do, when sysadmins say "There is no documentation" doesn't mean that there is literally no documentation it's often the documentation looks like this: "Set up a cron job and have it fire every few minutes" instead of "login to the server located at 192.168.1.25 via SSH using the administrator credentials located in the password manager and type chrontab -e..."
India was definitely the worst. I don’t think we ever reached a point where the work lost to that team (hiring, training, coordinating, spoonfeeding, mess cleaning) was outweighed by actual productivity from them. In other words, I had the feeling that they should have been paying us instead of us paying them.
Ukraine and romania were different. Still many problems inevitable to outsourcing, but at least the ROI made some amount of sense.
Still, I don’t think offshoring is generally worth it. I saw firsthand how the CEO was looking at only half of the numbers (wages) while they weren’t factoring in losses caused by offshoring. I tried to argue this with him at one point, and his argument basically boiled down to: all these big corporations do it, and they can’t all be wrong. I figure all the CEO’s think that.
Delays and cockups are just a cost of doing business. If it gets too bad trust me people get fired and contractors change or companies go out of business. Customers don't know how good they have it, because of how competitive the environment is.
Also, everyone was a lot more pleasant about it in the first wing vs. the mess in the general check-in hall.
Seems these issues are not infrequent. BA and LHR need to get their shit together.
Not just LHR and BA. Most of the major US carriers have had similar catasrophic IT failures over the last few years. It's industry-wide.
For example, I worked as part of the team that managed the software that allowed pilots to submit flight plans. Any upgrades had to go through multiple weeks of reviews and testing (I don't mean code review - I mean reviews through managers and processes), and was run on some rather ancient hardware. Moreover, thanks to pressure from the pilots union, the system had to be able to accept flight plans by fax, so had a lot of legacy cruft to support that too.
The problem isn't agility, corner cutting or moving too fast - it's moving too slow.
For context: Imagine a crew room, with an old yellow looking windows 95 machine as the only "IT service" and only GSM-speed (or no reception at all) mobile internet in the area. The machine doesn't really work, or is on a dialup connection (yes this still exists).
These are the cases where we use the phone, or write the plan manually on a form and fax that. The phone has a high risk of mistakes, because you're reading lots of numbers and codes so it's easy to misunderstand one.
Of all major metwork carriers it really seems to be BA with an annual complete shitshow of their IT systems.
There just aren't the planes.
The only solution is to drop work that's less important. In this case, that should have been ticketing/seat allocation/baggage handling. They should have simply allowed anyone into the planes, and dealt with reconciling records of who flew and who paid later.
After their last major IT shitshow they didn't even inform passengers of their rights to compensation. Only when the authorities rapped hard on their nuckles the feebly mentioned something.
"Your flight is now operated by RyanAir on the original schedule. Expect an adjustment of price via the original method of payment". Or United.