2nd Jun 2017
A ‘power supply issue’ with the British Airways (BA) IT system meant that thousands of passengers had their plans disrupted when all flights from Heathrow and Gatwick were cancelled last weekend.
Passengers described chaotic scenes at the airports, enduring hours in long check-in queues before being turned away.
With no announcements, and no staff available to talk to customers, the airline was criticised for a lack of customer communication. Many passengers described waiting for hours with no information whatsoever, and only finding out via the news that their flight had been cancelled.
BA chief executive Alex Cruz issued an apology, saying: “I know this has been a horrible time for customers. Some of you have missed holidays. Some of you have been stranded on aircraft and some of you have been separated from your bags. Many of you have been stuck in long queues while you’ve waited for information.
“On behalf of everyone at British Airways, I want to apologise for the fact that you’ve had to go through these very trying experiences, and to thank you for your patience and understanding,” he added.
As BA starts to recover from the disastrous system failure, an inquest is under way into what went wrong and why it has taken so long to fix it. Meanwhile, the airline has told customers that it will send all luggage back to them by courier. It has also offered to rebook cancelled flights for any alternative dates up until the end of November, or issue a full refund.
According to the most recent UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI) from The Institute of Customer Service, the transport sector overall is one of the poorest performers in terms of customer satisfaction. While it has improved on last year, the sector has an overall score of 74.7, 3.1 points below the UK all-sector average. It also has the lowest rate of complaint reporting: only 66.5% of customers who experienced a problem reported it, compared with the UK average of 77.4%.
The onus will now be on BA to demonstrate that it understands its customers’ grievances – and that it is putting measures in place to ensure similar issues don’t happen again. Indeed, one of the key recommendations of the January 2017 UKCSI is that companies seek to prevent problems at source: “Preventing problems from occurring is an opportunity both to improve customer experiences and reduce costs and inefficiency,” it says.