British Airways has asked Heathrow Airport to deploy security officers to block passengers from entering its home at Terminal 5 after the airline was forced on Saturday to cancel all of its European short-haul services until midday at the earliest.
The airline took the decision to proactively cancel more than 200 flights after it suffered a massive IT outage that shut down critical operational systems for more than five hours on Friday night.
A spokesperson for British Airways denied reports that a Russian-backed cyberattack was behind the outage and said backup systems had been activated. Witnesses, however, claimed the airline was “running on paper” after staff had to switch to manual, labour-intensive processes.
Heathrow Airport said BA had asked it to restrict access to airport terminals because thousands of passengers had been stranded and had nowhere to go. As a result, there were fears that Terminal 5 could become dangerously overcrowded.
British Airways warned passengers to stay away from the airport as there would be no staff available to help with rebooking. Passengers were instead urged to use the airline’s glitch-prone website to explore rebooking options.
A spokesperson also suggested affected passengers could take request a future travel voucher, but consumer rights campaigners cautioned that taking a voucher would negate BA from fulfiling duty of care responsibilities.
“We are working as quickly as possible to resolve things and we have backup plans in place so that customers flying can still check-in at the airport this evening. We apologise that this might be slower than usual, but we are doing everything we can to get as many of our flights away as planned,” the airline said in an emailed statement.
“We are sorry to our customers, it’s been a very difficult week and we can only apologise for any further disruption they may experience this evening. We are doing all we can to ensure that we provide up to date information about what is going on.”
Along with BA’s entire short-haul operation being wiped out, Heathrow Airport also warned that baggage was starting to pile up. Thousands of passengers were forced to wait days for delayed luggage last week after a winter storm caused travel chaos at Heathrow.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.