British Airways IT crash leaves thousands stranded; outsourcing to India blamed

British Airways was today still working to restore its computer systems after a power failure caused major disruption for thousands of passengers worldwide.

The airline said it is "closer to full operational capacity" after an IT power outage resulted in mass flight cancellations at London's Heathrow and Gatwick airports.

So far on Monday, 13 short-haul flights at Heathrow have been cancelled. Thousands of passengers remain displaced, with large numbers sleeping overnight in terminals.

BA has not explained the cause of the power outage, but the unions blamed the airline's decision last year of outsourcing IT jobs to India for causing the disruptions.

On Sunday, had BA warned of further delays and cancellations as it resumed flights following the major IT failure that saw most services cancelled on Saturday.

Chief executive Alex Cruz has posted videos on Twitter apologising for what he called a "horrible time for passengers".

But no one from the airline has been made available to answer questions about the system crash, and it has not explained why there was no back-up system in place, according to a BBC report.

Cancellations and delays affected thousands of passengers at both Heathrow and Gatwick on Saturday.

All flights operated from Gatwick on Sunday but more than a third of services from Heathrow - mostly to short-haul destinations - were cancelled.

Passengers slept on yoga mats handed out by the airline as conference rooms were opened to provide somewhere more comfortable to rest.

While BA blames a power outage, a corporate IT expert told the BBC it should not have caused "even a flicker of the lights" in the data-centre.

Even if the power could not be restored, the airline's Disaster Recovery Plan should have whirred into action. But that will have depended in part on veteran staff with knowledge of the complex patchwork of systems built up over the years.

Many of those people may have left when much of the IT operation was outsourced to India.

One theory of the IT expert, who does not wish to be named, is that when the power came back on the systems were unusable because the data was unsynchronised. In other words the airline was suddenly faced with a mass of conflicting records of passengers, aircraft and baggage movements - all the complex logistics of modern air travel.

BA said it operated virtually all scheduled long-haul flights on Sunday, but the knock-on effects of Saturday's disruption resulted in a reduced short-haul programme.

"We apologise again to customers for the frustration and inconvenience they are experiencing and thank them for their continued patience," it said.

BA is liable to reimburse thousands of passengers for refreshments and hotel expenses, and travel industry commentators have suggested the cost to the company - part of Europe's largest airline group IAG - could run in to tens of millions of pounds.

Customers displaced by flight cancellations can claim up to £200 a day for a room (based on two people sharing), £50 for transport between the hotel and airport, and £25 a day per adult for meals and refreshments.

Consumer expert Franky Brehany said travellers stranded in a "high-value city" like London may be able to claim more and should keep all receipts.

But he added that it might be harder for passengers to claim compensation, as BA may blame "extraordinary circumstances" - "like an act of God or force majeure" - meaning the airline would only have to reimburse hotel and food costs.

BA said Heathrow was still expected to be congested on today and urged travellers not to go to the airport unless they had a confirmed booking for a flight that was operating.

It said passengers could get a full refund or rebook to travel up to the end of November but recommend they use its website.