A power surge caused British Airways' IT outage

An engineer rebooted BA's data centre power in an "uncontrolled" fashion

Plane

07/06/2017: Human error was to blame for British Airways' massive IT outage that saw hundreds of flights cancelled late last month, the chief executive of its parent company has confirmed.

Willie Walsh, the chief executive of International Airlines Group of which BA is a part, said an engineer had mistakenly switched off the power supply to one of the company data centres which was then turned back on in an uncontrolled fashion, according to the Financial Times.

Speaking at a transport conference in Mexico, Walsh said: "It's very clear to me that you can make a mistake in disconnecting the power ... It's difficult for me to understand how to make a mistake in reconnecting the power."

The engineer is reported to be part of a team working at the Heathrow data centre hit by the power outage. The facility is managed by CBRE Works Solutions, a US property services company, which told IT Pro: "We are the manager of the facility for our client BA and fully support its investigation. No determination has been made yet regarding the causes of the incident on May 27." 

A BA spokesperson told IT Pro that the company is undertaking an exhaustive investigation to find out the exact circumstances of the power failure.

The spokesperson said: "There was a loss of power to the UK data centre which was compounded by the uncontrolled return of power which caused a power surge taking out our IT systems. So we know what happened, we just need to find out why. It was not an IT failure and had nothing to do with outsourcing of IT, it was an electrical power supply which was interrupted."

This backs up the internal email sent by Bill Francis, head of group IT at IAG, which was leaked to the Press Association, that read: "This resulted in the total immediate loss of power to the facility, bypassing the backup generators and batteries . . . It was turned back on in an unplanned and uncontrolled fashion, which created physical damage to the system."

Approximately 75,000 passengers were affected by the crash when BA was forced to cancel flights from Heathrow and Gatwick airports, affecting families who were setting out on half-term holidays.

02/06/2017: British Airways' IT fiasco last week may have been because a contractor made a fatal error in shutting down the equipment rather than the equipment failing.

A BA source told The Times that it was rumoured that a contractor carrying out maintenance accidentally switched the supply off, but this report has not been confirmed.

However, an internal email from Bill Francis, head of group IT at IAG, was leaked to the Press Association which seemed to confirm this version of events. It said: "This resulted in the total immediate loss of power to the facility, bypassing the backup generators and batteries . . . It was turned back on in an unplanned and uncontrolled fashion, which created physical damage to the system."

A BA spokesperson told IT Pro: "We are conducting an urgent investigation and it would be premature to comment on details before its conclusion. As we've said before it was not an IT issue, it was a power issue. There was no data corruption or loss and IT outsourcing was not a factor".

Approximately 75,000 passengers were affected by the crash when BA was forced to cancel flights from Heathrow and Gatwick airports, affecting families who were setting out on half-term holidays.

BA still hasn't released details behind the nature of the power supply issue affecting the IT problems on one of the busiest weekends of the year or explained why backup system weren't in place to prevent such a major outage from happening.

30/05/2017: British Airways CEO blames IT outage on "power supply" issue

British Airways' CEO has blamed power supply issues for an IT outage causing mass flight cancellations and widespread disruption over the bank holiday weekend.

Thousands of travellers were affected by the crash when BA was forced to cancel flights from Heathrow and Gatwick airports - many customers being families embarking on half-term holidays.

However, CEO Alex Cruz said the majority of its flights are now back up and running and will be expediting refunds to customers affected to attempt to win back some of its reputation.

"We have experienced a major IT systems failure that is causing very severe disruption to our flight operations worldwide," Cruz said. He added that all the company's check-in and operational systems were affected and as a result, it was forced to cancel all of its flights from Heathrow and Gatwick.

"Our IT teams are working tirelessly to fix the problems. We believe the root cause was a power supply issue and there's no evidence of any cyber attack."

On Sunday, Cruz offered an update, saying the IT teams had made progress trying to fix the problems. "Many of our IT systems are back up today and my colleagues across the airline are working very hard to build back our flight programme and get as many of our customers as possible away on their travels," Cruz said on Sunday.

He told Sky News that the IT problems "have all been local issues around a local data centre", denying union GMB's claims that the problem could have been avoided had BA not outsourced IT jobs to India in cost-cutting measures.

However, BA has not detailed the nature of the power supply issue behind IT problems on one of the busiest weekends of the year, nor explained why backup systems weren't in place to prevent such a major outage happening.

Featured Resources

Defeating ransomware with unified security from WatchGuard

How SMBs can defend against the onslaught of ransomware attacks

Free download

The IT expert’s guide to AI and content management

How artificial intelligence and machine learning could be critical to your business

Free download

The path to CX excellence

Four stages to thrive in the experience economy

Free download

Becoming an experience-based business

Your blueprint for a strong digital foundation

Free download

Most Popular

Zoom: From pandemic upstart to hybrid work giant
video conferencing

Zoom: From pandemic upstart to hybrid work giant

14 Sep 2021
What are the pros and cons of AI?
machine learning

What are the pros and cons of AI?

8 Sep 2021
Hackers develop Linux port of Cobalt Strike for new attacks
Security

Hackers develop Linux port of Cobalt Strike for new attacks

14 Sep 2021