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British Airways: heaping a crisis on top of a disaster

A systems failure which resulted in British Airways making widespread flight cancelations over the busy Bank Holiday weekend was exacerbated by major failings in its crisis communication response.

The systems failure was initially put down to a power failure by British Airways’ Chairman and CEO Alex Cruz, but a spokesperson later elaborated that the issue had actually been an exceptional power surge at one of the company’s UK data centres / centers. This caused physical damage to infrastructure and, as a result, many of BA’s ‘hugely complex operational IT systems’ failed. BA’s backup system was amongst the failed systems…

After three days of disruption, BA currently states that: “Our IT systems are now back up and running and we will be operating a full flight schedule at Heathrow and Gatwick on Tuesday 30 May.”

Alex Cruz has promised that an in-depth investigation into the disaster will take place to ensure that it will never happen again.

Crisis communications

As well as the problems caused by the initial disaster, BA’s crisis communications seems to have added to customer frustrations rather than alleviating them.

The airline’s contact centres were affected by the systems failure, with the result that contingency contact numbers were used by BA. Unfortunately, three different numbers were promoted, confusing the public; and one of the numbers was a premium-rate phone line, which drew further criticism.


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