BA systems meltdown ‘not about IT’, insists IAG boss Willie Walsh

BA systems meltdown ‘not about IT’, insists IAG boss Willie Walsh

The chief executive of British Airways’ parents company IAG has defended the company’s decision to outsource its IT in the wake of the meltdown that left 75,000 passengers stranded.

Willie Walsh said the problem was “not about IT” and backed British Airways boss Alex Cruz this week as investigations into the cause of the problem continue.

All flights at both Gatwick and Heathrow airports were cancelled on Saturday May 27 and the fallout from the issue is expected to cost the airline something in the region of £100 million.

In his first public appearance since the incident, Walsh said: “We know the cause of the problem. It was not about IT. The problem was caused by the failure of electricity power to the IT systems.

“We understand what happened but are investigating why and that will take some time.”

According to the power outage at a UK office led to an “uncontrollable surge” of energy which damaged back-up systems was caused by a “catastrophic blunder” by a member of staff.

It has been suggested the problem was caused by the power being reinstated too quickly rather than phased which damaged servers containing critical data for running the airline.

However, contractors who manage the data centre at Heathrow airport, CBRE, insisted that the claims were “not founded in fact”.

Walsh, International Airline Group’s chief executive said BA bosses, including Cruz, have done “everything possible” after the meltdown to put things right for its customers.

Nevertheless there has been widespread criticism of its online compensation claims forms and a lack of a promise to offer full refunds to those affected.

BA chief executive Cruz apologised “profusely” after critics including the GMB union and some anonymous newspaper sources blamed the glitch on British Airways’ decision to outsource some of its IT staff to India – a move that was billed as saving IAG £78 million per year.

It remains to be seen whether BA will reconsider out-sourcing its IT work, but the company’s statements have so far defended their decision.

A BA spokeswoman said: “IT services are now provided globally by a range of suppliers and this is very common practice across all industries and the UK Government.”

Meanwhile, aviation expert Howard Wheeldon, of Wheeldon Strategic Advisory, said he largely accepted BA’s explanation that the issue was not linked to outsourcing IT.

“But, for completeness, I also need to know whether the IT staff employed within the Heathrow building at the time are directly employed by British Airways or whether they are UK-based employees of the outsourced IT operation in India,” he told The Telegraph.

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