British Airways botches its response to its latest technical woes

By The Economist online

IT IS easy to blame infrastructure when things go wrong, as they did on May 27th when British Airways (BA) grounded planes across the globe after a global IT systems crash. More than 1,200 flights, booked to carry over 75,000 passengers, were cancelled over three days; hundreds of thousands more miserable travellers had their trips ruined by delays, lost luggage and missed connections. Analysts estimate that the total cost to BA of refunds, plus compensation of up to €600 ($675) for each delayed passenger, could climb as high as £150m ($192m).

But such calamities are also man-made, and a trail of incompetence led to this one. Alex Cruz, the chief executive, is better known as a cost-cutter than a communicator, and it showed. Though he was quick to apologise in public, in private he muzzled his employees and offered vague explanations, linking the computer failure to a “power-supply issue”. Others pour scorn on this interpretation.

His staff, though often trying their best, were ill-prepared. They had no clear plan to deal with passengers caught up in the chaos. For flight delays and cancellations, the television bulletins broadcast at London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airports, BA’s two main hubs, were more helpful than its stewards on the ground. Without working backup systems, airline representatives were unable to prioritise customers in most…

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Category: Business and finance, Approved, Business, Business

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