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Report: British Airways' Massive System Outage Blamed on Contractor Pulling Plug

June 02, 2017
2 min read
Report: British Airways' Massive System Outage Blamed on Contractor Pulling Plug
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Last weekend, British Airways had a massive system outage, causing over 700 flights to be canceled and affecting over 75,000 passengers' travel plans. It's estimated that BA is going to have to pay out compensation of around £150 million ($193 million). Turns out, the whole issue may have been caused by one simple error.

According to The Times, inside sources believe that a "contractor doing maintenance inadvertently switched the [power] supply off." Per this account of events, someone flipped the wrong switch or pulled the wrong plug, causing one of the world's largest airlines to be plunged into darkness. Agents lost access to any records, the website went down for days, baggage records were lost and all flights were canceled.

Not surprisingly, the IT contractors managing the site dispute this version of events. A statement from the outside contractor published by The Guardian notes, "No determination has been made yet regarding the cause of this incident. Any speculation to the contrary is not founded in fact."

Whatever the cause, it seems those in charge were in such a hurry to get the systems back up that they did so in a way that made the situation worse. From an internal BA email leaked by The Times, we learned that the system was "turned back on in an unplanned and uncontrolled fashion, which created physical damage to the system."

Failures happen, but what's quite unbelievable is that BA didn't have a functioning backup system ready to jump in when the primary system went down. This isn't the first time that this has happened for an airline. Delta's August 2016 outage was also blamed on a power failure, with backups failing to keep the system running.

If you were affected by the system outage, make sure that you file for compensation. We go into all the details here, but British Airways has a responsibility to get you to your destination; the airline will pay for hotel, food and ground transportation expenses; you're entitled to additional compensation per EU law. If BA doesn't cover all of your expenses, look into the delay protection on the credit card you booked the flights with.

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  • Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings, which requires a minimum two-night stay, through American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®.
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 back each month on eligible purchases made with your Platinum Card® on one or more of the following: Audible, Disney+, The Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, Peacock, SiriusXM, and The New York Times. Enrollment required.
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  • American Express has expanded The Centurion® Network to include 40+ Centurion Lounge and Studio locations worldwide. There are even more places your Platinum Card® can get you complimentary entry and exclusive perks.
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  • Get up to $300 back per calendar year on the Equinox+ digital fitness app, or eligible Equinox club memberships when you pay with your Platinum Card. Enrollment required. Learn more.
  • Breeze through security with CLEAR® lanes available at 100+ airports, stadiums, and entertainment venues and get up to $189 back per calendar year on your membership when you use your Card. Learn more.
  • $695 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees