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British Airways passengers facing delays after IT failures (bbc.co.uk)
87 points by chris_overseas 71 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 110 comments

I was stuck in exactly this situation with my father last year going from UK to Portugal via Heathrow. Hundreds of people past immigration counters joined the lines to get back into the country, stuck in there for about 5 hours in an extremely congested, slow moving crowd. Some of the younger people were so outraged they took to Twitter and Instagram and began a campaign to refund and sue. About 3 hours in, BA decided it might be prudent to provide water bottles and a pack of biscuits to their customers. It was a pretty grueling experience TBH.

An exact repeat of this situation makes it seem like such failures are becoming routine for BA.

> 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.

What's "disgusting" about resource allocation?

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.

What you're describing might be acceptable if the airline were transparent about it: "This 90 person flight will be overbooked by up to 10 people. Based on data over the last 12 months, there is a 5% chance one or more people in your party of 4 will be involuntarily forced to wait for the next flight, which is 3 hours later. That would lead you to missing your connecting flight, resulting in a total delay of at least 9 hours for your trip."

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.

You either don't understand how involuntarily bumping passengers works, or you don't understand what moral hazard is, or perhaps both.

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.

Legally they have to, yes -- but BA's tactic for avoiding this is for all the desk staff to mysteriously go on an extended break when a delayed flight arrives...

You call the helpdesk to be told "speak to airport staff at the BA desk".

... see above. :)

I've never heard overbooking announcements with discount airlines (easyJet, Ryanair). I wonder if they just don't overbook or somehow handle the situation better.

I flew to an easyJet destination weekly for the bigger part of a year. Heard overbooking announcements at least every other week.

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.

They (generally) don't overbook. Since their tickets are (generally) not refundable, they get paid even if you don't show up.

We were scheduled to fly from Edinburgh to London last year, when the previous meltdown happened.

Luckily we got notified well before anyone got to the airport and managed to book train tickets instead.

did you get compensated?

Because he was in EU he has right for compansation.

Specifically, €400 per person assuming they were flying to Lisbon: https://europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/travel/passenger-right... . If OP hasn’t claimed already, then it’d probably be a good idea to do that before October 31st though.

BA are required to inform them of the compensation they're entitled to (and provide duty of care)

Remember, this is the same airline that just placed a huge order for Boeing 777MAX airplanes. It's obviously run by incompetents, so I'd stay far away.

What's wrong with the 777 Max planes?

He meant 737 Max (order was about 200 jets).


737 I think you mean.

Definitely dodgy, Airbus were not even invited to tender.

They said the reason Airbus was not invited for the offer was because they are always months late with their delivery

Well they have a huge backlog for the A321Neo... for obvious reasons!

I'm stuck in London right now trying to get to Athens on British Airways because of this IT failure. I went to a gate of an earlier flight where they had opened up a couple of seats, and the gate agents were trying to get me on, but the computer system didn't let them do it and they had to let the flight leave.

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.

If your time is at all valuable to you, I strongly advise not depending on the airline for anything. Book your own hotel immediately; don't wait for a voucher. Arrange your own transport to your destination; don't wait in an hours long line. You may be able to get compensation later, but the important thing is you'll have a place to sleep and arrive at your destination long before you otherwise would.

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.

Were you able to get them to reimburse you for the rental car?

No, but I felt lucky that the refunded the fare for the flight that I didn't take.

Reminds me of the Planes, Trains and Automobiles movie.

Yes! And I watched that the next weekend! The entire story is that there there were actually 2 cancelled flights and 2 rental cars..

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.

A failure of IT systems shouldn't stop the plane flying...

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.

There's a £2000 fine for passengers with inadequate documentation: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/passenger-documen...

Hwoever every 4-6 passengers they deny boarding is a €2000 fine.

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.

> For EU flights especially you still check passports at the gate - indeed it's the only place they are checked.

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 was talking about BA flights. BA check passports at the gate to all destinations aside from domestic UK ones (and maybe London-Dublin -- I haven't done that flight)

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.

They only have to check at entry to Schengen zone, which the UK and Ireland are outside.

Some countries have an agreement with each other where the passport check isn’t required. For instance I believe Norway and Sweden have one because they are part of the Nordic Passport Union: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nordic_Passport_Union

I believe they still check IDs at the gate, even for internal flights. (I am pretty sure they checked my ID the last time I did one) - It is not an passport check, just an ID check at the gate to match person to ticket (as the security in UK airport just check boarding passes, not IDs)

Not BA, although I haven't flown domestic for a few months.

Airlines like Ryanair do check photo ID on domestic, but that's for revenue purposes (to stop people selling tickets on the black market)

Ah, it is just Common Travel Area that needs ID, but not passport.

Nope, you need a boarding card and that's it

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.

> A failure of IT systems shouldn't stop the plane 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.

I expected that to be done by the airport and independent of the airline

No, it's part of the Flight Management module of the airline Departure Control System, based on the passengers boarded, their age and sex, the weight and containers of the bags checked, and the amount of fuel needed. This prints out a load sheet that must be signed off by the pilot, and then they can load the bags and fuel accordingly

From the second line of the article:

"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.

In most countries, there are severe penalties for airlines who allow passengers to reach destination immigration controls without valid documents, so if there's any doubt, airlines will not allow passengers to fly.

In yesterday's world, yeah. Today, when you have to take off your shoes to get onto a plane in the US, I don't see that happening.

Not even in recent times; since Lockerbie they’ll offload your bags if you’re not on the flight.

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.

In 2015 I was flying from Copenhagen to Helsinki with Finnair. I missed the flight after checking in, and they didn't unload my bag, although they should have.

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.

> since Lockerbie they’ll offload your bags if you’re not on the flight.

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).

You're mixing a mistake (luggage redirected) with a specific situation (missing passenger). Mistakes happen. But known abandoned luggage will be offloaded.

But you don't actually need IT systems to record who is on the flight - all you need is a pre-printed list of legit passengers and a pen.

Yeah - the GGP is talking about just letting anyone go though:

> 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.

I have on multiple occasions been boarded by pen and paper in the US when technical issues prevented the electronic systems from being used - somehow airline/ground staff in the US often seem more empowered to do this sort of thing than their European counterparts.

It may be a difference between domestic and international flights.

At least in Europe going to/from the UK is a lot more cumbersome than to another EU country, since they are not in the Schengen area.

It is far easier to fly to Switzerland than to the UK.

I flew out of Heathrow just the other week, and I'm pretty sure BA doesn't have enough staff to accept checked baggage and get it onto the right plane without any IT systems.

Luggage might be one big factor;

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.

> a sufficient story about buying one

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.

These guys are poster children for outsourcing all their core IT functions far and wide. Seems to come back and bite them rather often now.

USAF MS windows systems in the UK were playing up yesterday as well, everything working really really slowly, been trying to find out if its a windows update that borked something or if its something else.

As much as I like flying BA as a in person experience - Their IT is a shitshow of note.

Even on a good day it’s 50/50 whether it can find my bookings.

You must have been very lucky. BA under its current ex-Vueling CEO is twice the price of EasyJet for half of the service.

There should be guidelines as to how airlines should address tech problems and flight delays, so people don't end up on the ground for hours, sometimes without access to food or water.

There are

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.

Yes I meant more with government regulations, and as someone else mentioned having a backup plan for when there are technical difficulties.

The thing you're responding to _is_ a government regulation. Specifically the EU's regulation 261/2004.

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 wonder, has BA (or any other airline) or the UK government said what the rules for this will be after Brexit?

I have a hard time imagining, say, EasyJet doing any sort of compensation they aren't required by law to do.

BA are more penny pinching than Easyjet.

As with all things brexit, the goal is to remove our rights


easyJet has a very significant amount of their operation registered in the EU. So they will be following these rules also after brexit.

What are the penalties for the regulations? Because without sufficiently high costs, the airline has no incentive to comply.

Most enforcement action has been around the compensation part rather than the duty of care part

There has been enforcement action though


Why would there need to be penalties? What's the plan, start an airline for a few hundred million dollars, screw customers out of compensation, then... Go bankrupt? You aren't allowed to operate airlines that don't obey EU rules in EU countries, there aren't pirate airports with shady airlines that don't obey the laws or anything like that.

[Controversial post]

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 :(

Minor nitpick, the language is called Malayalam, not "Malalayam". It's easy to remember, because it is the only language in the world which reads the same from back to front ;)

> 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.

Same experience.

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.

There are two main reasons to outsource: reduce cost & focus on core business. By outsourcing a developer position, a company may not have to be engaged in most of the process of hiring someone else in that geography (It has a cost), there is also the inherit admin cost associated with maintaining the pipeline of developers to cover for the high turn-over, the need of finance/HR/ops professionals, etc from that geography.

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.

The “coding seen as too low” mentality is slowly changing. Most of the very well paid employees and even many of the founders of newly found companies are known to be good programmers. People who look down on code are (rightly) missing out

I also experienced the high-turnover thing.

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 :)

Been my experience as well. I had an offshore contact in India who I trained on our software. I watched the suffix of his email address change 3 times over 18 months. And each time was a significant pay increase.

Everything you say is right and true for out-sourcing. However, I think the better point is that companies like this treat their IT platform as a cost center. They need to invest in that just as much as new planes and amenities for passengers. This is the consequence of not doing so and having 30 year old systems still in the critical path. They have all built a spectacular mountain of technical debt. This is largely true for banks and hospitals and many other industries.

Even though whatever you said is true of offshoring, don't underestimate the incompetence of the in-house talent.

IBM calling.

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).

I agree with most of your points. However, these two stuck out to me:

> 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.

>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?

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 via SSH using the administrator credentials located in the password manager and type chrontab -e..."

I’ve worked with offshore dev teams in india, ukraine (2 locations) and romania.

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.

I was looking for this comment, where someone just blame Indian IT teams without any factual data that this is caused by the Indian IT teams. Just waiting for an opportunity to pour personal hatred and resentment. Just like I expected someone will blame indian IT teams without any actual data.

Agree to lot of your points. Insipite of all these risks, a lot of management teams find value with outsourcing. I guess they feel risks are every where around.

Things are cheaper and easier to do in India. Try hiring 200 devs in Craigland and then come back and give us your observations.

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.

I do agree with some of your points but looks like outsourcing industry is the favorite scapegoat these days for any failure. From other anecdotes in this comment section, various other reason are being thrown around for BA repeatedly having IT failure. So without any proper analysis it would be premature to conclude one way or the other.

It doesn't specifically have to be outsourcing. Just the massive change associated with it. Take something mediocre, and try to run it somewhere else, and it's worse. Similar outcome to moving it across the country with a different set of "locals".

I was stuck in LHR during the last time they had an identical system outage. I was lucky to be the very first person in line to check-in when the systems went down, so I was the first through when they fixed it 90min later. I had however missed my flight by then.

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.

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.

I'm not sure you can blame LHR for this. Terminal 2 (Lufthansa/Star Alliance) never seems to suffer from this utter incompetence, it's only BA as far as I can see.

That'll be expensive. Between €250 and €600 for everyone affected -- 90 cancellations of say 150 people and you're looking at the €5 million range, beore you even consider any delays.

fixed now

Seems like software failures are a common occurrence in british banks and airports. Perhaps a culture of corner cutting, and calling it agile, might be the cause?

Speaking as someone who (for a time) worked in the IT department of British Airways, the culprit is really just ancient systems that aren't well maintained, along with institutional and industrial pressure not to improve them or upgrade them.

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.

As a pilot, I'm really sorry about the state of infrastructure at the destinations, but we need fax or phone sometimes.

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.

That's a much more reasonable explanation - thanks, I appreciate it! The way I'd had it explained to me was more along the lines of "greedy pilots want to be able to fax because they can't be bothered to learn how to use email", but your explanation makes a lot more sense.

But any network airline has the same legacy issue and needs to connect to the same, relatively ancient, reservation systems.

Of all major metwork carriers it really seems to be BA with an annual complete shitshow of their IT systems.

Well maybe the other carriers have less awful legacy tech - I can't speak for what they have. All I know is what I saw while working at BA.

Legacy software and outsourcing to consultants or contractors. I think that's the story for most organisations in the UK - not willing to invest in having a dedicated team of in-house developers. Meanwhile developers are like nomads and are on the move to the better paid jobs and/or the better tech stack and better workloads. Lot of new graduates coming through but still not enough to meet demands in the market. Training is the biggest cost imo.

Funny you mention that. Most contractors I worked with and have worked at the likes of BA and banks complained about permanent employees resistant to change, and being out of date in terms of practices used, bureaucracy and "not my problem" kind of attitudes. Obviously, the most incompetent complained about contractors as they would get a way higher daily rate, while most of those permies struggle to find a job even tho the market is an employee market.

Or a culture of outsourcing.

Outsourcing to the lowest bidder

Can't speak for Airports but banks aren't agile lol

can they not just transfer passengers to other airlines

BA operate more than half the flights out of Heathrow, and airlines run load averages well above 90%.

There just aren't the planes.

How would they do that without working computers?

the other airlines computers are working. they would have to book them in manually

Anything involving automated systems failing like this leaves not enough human employees to do all the work of the computers.

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.

It's quite likely there's not enough capacity to move this many passengers over.

They hate paying for that.

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.

Or transfer the plane and crew (and slot) to another airline?

"Your flight is now operated by RyanAir on the original schedule. Expect an adjustment of price via the original method of payment". Or United.

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