British Airways' Human Error Admission Fuels Questions About Airline's Systems

British Airways

by Bradley Gerrard, The Telegraph, June 6, 2017

British Airways’ admission human error was behind its May Bank Holiday catastrophic systems failure is likely to heap further pressure on some of its most senior executives, experts have claimed.

Willie Walsh, the boss of the airline’s parent company International Airlines Group, told delegates at an aviation summit in Mexico that power to the servers was disconnected and its resumption in an “uncontrolled uncommanded fashion” led to their damage.

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But experts have queried why back-up systems failed at British Airways and say this will be a key question for some of its most senior staff.

Andrew Lobbenberg, an analyst at HSBC, said this would likely be a focus for the external investigation announced by Mr Walsh.

“In aviation, when there is a major problem or incident, it is very rare that it is just one error but normally a compounding of several errors or process failures,” he said.

"The priority now will be to understand why the systems failed and to put in place improved processes to make sure it does not happen again.”

Gil Hecht, founder of Continuity Software, said his company worked with clients including some of the biggest US financial, insurance and telecommunication companies to make sure their organisations were prepared for an unplanned IT outage.

He questioned why British Airways’ back-up systems, which he claimed should have kicked in when power was initially withdrawn from the servers, had failed.

“These are nothing to do with the poor person connected with the incident and much more to do with the top IT management,” he said.

“They are the ones responsible for making sure the [back-up] systems will always work.”

Graham Cluley, a British security blogger, said many questions remained unanswered, such as whether BA had the right failsafes in place and whether there had been sufficient testing of its systems beforehand.

“Yes, there almost certainly was some human error involved but the people to blame are more likely to be in senior management than on the front line,” Mr Cluley said.

IAG chief Willie Walsh has spoken about the systems failure at an aviation conference in Cancun, Mexico

Nadejda Popova, travel project manager at market research consultant Euromonitor, agreed there was pressure on the senior staff at the company, suggesting the incident had shown “crisis management was non-existent” at the airline.

“Clearly they were not prepared and that comes as a huge surprise,” she said.

But she added what would be key was how the airline dealt with its customers in the aftermath of the incident, suggesting the right treatment could help passengers forgive the airline.

IAG released passenger statistics for May on Tuesday, in which it said 479 flights were cancelled on the first day of the incident, May 27, equivalent to 59pc of BA operations. Then on May 28, 193 flights (23pc of operations) were cancelled. It was back to a full schedule by May 30.

Roughly 75,000 passengers were left stranded due to the incident over the Bank Holiday weekend which some are predicting could cost the airline in the region of £100m in compensation.

BA had not responded to requests for comment at the time of publication.

 

This article was written by Bradley Gerrard from The Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected].

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