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BA Mayhem Attributed to Human Error, Not IT

BA Mayhem Attributed to Human Error, Not ITBA Mayhem Attributed to Human Error, Not IT

A computer systems failure at British Airways last month that left tens of thousands of passengers stranded was caused by two human errors from a contractor, the CEO of the carrier’s parent company said on Monday.

“It wasn’t a computer meltdown,” Willie Walsh, CEO of International Airlines Group, said Monday during a media briefing at IATA’s annual general meeting in Cancun.

“It was not a failure of IT,” Skift quoted Walsh as saying.

Walsh blamed the press for early reporting, saying media got it wrong by comparing the British Airways outage to other incidents when airline computer systems failed. But when the problem occurred, British Airways said little about what caused it, blaming it mostly on a power surge. It said backup systems were also not working, forcing it to cancel all flights from London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airports. On Monday, Walsh said the outage was caused by an electrical engineer, who disconnected the uninterruptible power supply to the airline’s data center.

Ordinarily, Walsh said, such a mistake could have been corrected in a couple of hours, and the airline likely would not have canceled flights. But in this case, the problem was compounded when the power supply was reconnected.

“What caused the damage was that the power was restored in an uncontrolled fashion,” Walsh said. He said it caused “physical damage” to servers, power units and distribution panels.

Walsh said he understood how a mistake might be made in turning off the power supply. But he said he was more surprised by the damage that was caused when it was turned back on. As for the airline’s brand, Walsh said it had taken a hit, but will recover.

 “We apologize to all of our customers who have been affected by this,” he said. “We will work to recover our position. British Airways is incredibility resilient. It’s a powerful brand. I’m not going to deny that this is something that has been damaging to the brand, but it hasn’t destroyed it in any way.”


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