Just two years after British Airways decided to slash hundreds of in-house IT jobs in favour of a cheaper outsourced contract and merely 15-months after the airline suffered an infamous IT meltdown in which 75,000 passengers were left stranded, the carrier has now said it has suffered a serious IT breach involving the theft of sensitive customer data.
In a statement which was released after normal business hours this evening, the airline said the personal and financial details of customers who had made flight bookings via the official British Airways website and mobile app between 21st August and 5th September 2018 had been compromised.
According to Reuters, up to 380,000 customers may have been affected by the huge data breach which has now been reported to law enforcement. At the time of publication, it was unclear whether local authorities in the United Kingdom where the majority of BA’s offices and IT systems are based were involved or whether the hack involved parent company IAG in Madrid or even Indian consultancy firm TATA.
British Airways has been at pains to point out that the stolen data did not involve passport numbers or individual travel information but that financial data and other personal information may have been stolen.
In the last week, around 200,000 users of the Air Canada mobile app were informed that their personal details, including passport information and other sensitive information, may have been stolen in a similar breach. Delta Air Lines and Virgin Atlantic have also fallen victim to similar IT breaches in recent times.
“We are deeply sorry for the disruption that this criminal activity has caused,” said BA’s chief executive, Alex Cruz (on this occasion deciding to issue just a written statement, no yellow jacket in sight).
“We take the protection of our customers’ data very seriously,” Cruz continued as the airline encouraged customers to contact their banks and credit card providers if they think they may have been affected.
In 2016, British Airways announced plans to axe around 200 in-house IT jobs as it outsourced a major IT contract to Indian firm, TATA Consultancy Services. The airline has been plagued with technical issues ever since, including problems with a new company-wide computer system called ‘Fly’.
The system suffered several stoppages when it was first introduced but in May last year, the airline experienced a major IT meltdown in which 75,000 passengers were left stranded when key computer systems completely failed. The fiasco is said to have cost British Airways in the region of £80 million and was eventually attributed to an engineer switching off power to an IT system without permission.
More recently, a major revamp of the official British Airways website has been less than successful with many users saying the site is glitchy and prone to problems which prevent customers from paying for flights or managing their bookings.