A bit over a week ago, British Airways had to cancel hundreds of flights and stranded tens of thousands of passengers after an IT meltdown… or at least that’s how most characterized it. Many criticized British Airways for their communication following the incident, though after the fact I’d say they were quite generous to elite members, as they extended status by two years for those impacted by the situation.
British Airways claimed from the beginning that this incident occurred due to a “power issue,” which sounds similar to Delta’s meltdown last August, which also impacted tens of thousands of customers.
What’s interesting is how the CEO of IAG (the parent company of British Airways), Willie Walsh, is referring to the event. He claims that people aren’t fairly characterizing what happened. According to him, British Airways didn’t have a computer or IT meltdown, and it’s not fair to characterize it as such. Instead it was just a power issue. Per Air Transport World:
During a press conference at the IATA AGM in Cancun, Walsh, who is chairman of the IATA board of governors, was asked about the “computer meltdown” at BA and immediately responded, “It wasn’t a computer meltdown.” He suggested the media had mischaracterized the incident.
Power to a BA data center was improperly disconnected, he explained. The problem could have been solved “within a couple of hours,” Walsh said, but the power was restarted in an “uncontrolled” manner that caused serious damage to BA’s servers, resulting in all of BA’s systems shutting down and aircraft having to be grounded across its network.
“It was not a failure of IT,” Walsh said. “It was a failure of power.” He called the episode an “extremely rare event … There are incidents from time to time that are damaging to our reputation, but we recover from these.”
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that technology isn’t my strong suit. However, if a single power outage can shut down an entire airline, isn’t that an IT failure?