BA CEO blames messaging and networks for grounding

Says broken bits were never outsourced offshore, offers SFA explanation for lack of backup

The catastrophic systems failure that grounded British Airways flights for a day appears to have been caused by networking hardware failing to cope with a power surge and messaging systems failing as a result.

The Register has asked BA's press office to detail what went wrong, what equipment failed, what disaster recovery arrangements were in place and why they appear not to have worked. BA has not responded to our requests for information, so we've instead reviewed the interviews that BA CEO Alex Cruz gave to British television outlets and pieced together an account of the outage.

Cruz told several outlets that a power surge took some systems offline and that backup power systems then failed.

Speaking to Sky News, he added a little more detail about what went wrong, as follows:

On Saturday morning around 9:30 there was indeed a power surge that had a catastrophic effect over some communications hardware which eventually affected the messaging across our systems.

Tens of millions of messages every day that are shared across 200 systems across the BA network and it actually affected all of those systems across the network.

Speaking to Channel 4, Cruz said: "We were unable to restore and use some of those backup systems because they themselves could not trust the messaging that had to take place amongst them."

Cruz has insisted, in all interviews, that outsourcing was not the source of the problem as the affected infrastructure was maintained by "local" people.

Speaking to the BBC, he said: "There are no redundancies or outsourcing taking place around this particular hardware, live operational systems resilience set of infrastructure in this particular case.

"It is all locally hired, etc, resources that have been attending to the maintenance and the running of this particular infrastructure."

He went on to say that the incident is completely unrelated to redundancies among the carrier's IT staff.

But Cruz's remarks to Sky News didn't rule out that staff responsible were not BA employees.

"All the parties involved around this particular event have not been involved with any type of outsourcing in any foreign country," he said [Reg emphasis]. "They have all been local issues around a local data centre who [sic] has been managed and fixed by local resources.”

Another point Cruz has made repeatedly is that BA does not believe the incident was caused by an attack, while it has no evidence its systems were compromised or accessed by unauthorised third parties.

Loose ends

Cruz's watchword in all interviews was "profusely" – that's the adjective chosen to describe just how sorry he is to have inconvenienced so many travellers.

The CEO is also sending a message that the airline is just about back in the skies, with 95 per cent of flights expected to proceed as normal and two-thirds of stranded passengers now having been moved on to their destinations. Cruz has also committed to paying all required compensation.

But BA still appears to be missing a trick or two. The airline's own YouTube interview with Cruz says the airline's site features prominent links to information on how to claim compensation. All The Register could find was a generic compensation claim page for lost luggage. The version of the front page that Vulture South can view, even after setting our location to the UK, offered no information on compensation.

Cruz has also promised that passengers will never again have such an experience with BA, in part because the carrier will review the incident and figure out how to avoid a repeat.

That review promises to be fascinating, but Cruz hasn't said when it will arrive. For now, he's repeatedly said, the carrier is focused more on sorting things out for passengers it's left in the lurch. ®

Similar topics

Other stories you might like

  • It's one thing to have the world in your hands – what are you going to do with it?

    Google won the patent battle against ART+COM, but we were left with little more than a toy

    Column I used to think technology could change the world. Google's vision is different: it just wants you to sort of play with the world. That's fun, but it's not as powerful as it could be.

    Despite the fact that it often gives me a stomach-churning sense of motion sickness, I've been spending quite a bit of time lately fully immersed in Google Earth VR. Pop down inside a major city centre – Sydney, San Francisco or London – and the intense data-gathering work performed by Google's global fleet of scanning vehicles shows up in eye-popping detail.

    Buildings are rendered photorealistically, using the mathematics of photogrammetry to extrude three-dimensional solids from multiple two-dimensional images. Trees resolve across successive passes from childlike lollipops into complex textured forms. Yet what should feel absolutely real seems exactly the opposite – leaving me cold, as though I've stumbled onto a global-scale miniature train set, built by someone with too much time on their hands. What good is it, really?

    Continue reading
  • Why Cloud First should not have to mean Cloud Everywhere

    HPE urges 'consciously hybrid' strategy for UK public sector

    Sponsored In 2013, the UK government heralded Cloud First, a ground-breaking strategy to drive cloud adoption across the public sector. Eight years on, and much of UK public sector IT still runs on-premises - and all too often - on obsolete technologies.

    Today the government‘s message boils down to “cloud first, if you can” - perhaps in recognition that modernising complex legacy systems is hard. But in the private sector today, enterprises are typically mixing and matching cloud and on-premises infrastructure, according to the best business fit for their needs.

    The UK government should also adopt a “consciously hybrid” approach, according to HPE, The global technology company is calling for the entire IT industry to step up so that the public sector can modernise where needed and keep up with innovation: “We’re calling for a collective IT industry response to the problem,” says Russell MacDonald, HPE strategic advisor to the public sector.

    Continue reading
  • A Raspberry Pi HAT for the Lego Technic fan

    Sneaking in programming under the guise of plastic bricks

    There is good news for the intersection of Lego and Raspberry Pi fans today, as a new HAT (the delightfully named Hardware Attached on Top) will be unveiled for the diminutive computer to control Technic motors and sensors.

    Using a Pi to process sensor readings and manage motors has been a thing since the inception of the computer, and users (including ourselves) have long made use of the General Purpose Input / Output (GPIO) pins that have been a feature of the hardware for all manner of projects.

    However, not all users are entirely happy with breadboards and jumpers. Lego, familiar to many a builder thanks to lines such as its Mindstorms range, recently introduced the Education SPIKE Prime set, aimed at the classroom.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021