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BA flights grounded: Apologetic CEO Alex Cruz denies catastrophic computer failure was caused by job cuts

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IT failure caused by a catastrophic power surge on Saturday morning, he says

British Airways’ chief executive has apologised “profusely” to passengers caught up in travel chaos at the weekend which grounded flights at Heathrow and Gatwick, but denied the disruption had anything to do with cost-cutting in the business.

Giving his first media interview since a major outage on Saturday caused the airline’s IT system to collapse, Alex Cruz refused to resign and said the problem was not a result of outsourcing jobs to other countries.

“I can confirm that all the parties involved around this particular event have not been involved in any type of outsourcing in any foreign country,” he told Sky News.

“They have all been local issues around a local data centre.”

He added that no BA passengers’ data had been compromised in the IT meltdown and said there was no evidence it was the result of a cyber attack, promising not to allow such an outage to happen again.
The IT failure was caused by a short but catastrophic power surge at 9.30am on Saturday that affected the company’s messaging system, he said, and the backup system failed to work properly.

“We will have completed an exhaustive investigation on exactly the reasons of why this happened,” Mr Cruz said. “We will, of course, share those conclusions once we have actually finished them.

“We have no evidence whatsoever that there was any cyber attack of any sort.”

BA plans to operate around 95 per cent of its flights today from the two major London hubs. Twenty-seven departures and arrivals were already cancelled on Monday, and 58 were delayed.

After the outage caused more than 1,000 flights to be delayed or cancelled, including BA’s sister airlines in Spain, Iberia and Air Nostrum, focus quickly turned to Mr Cruz’s handling of the company, having shut down the airline’s computer department last year, slashing 700 jobs in the UK.

He then outsourced the company’s IT systems to Indian firm Tata Consultancy Services.

GMB union’s national aviation officer, Mick Rix, claimed the chaos “could have all been avoided” if BA had not in 2016 “made hundreds of dedicated and loyal IT staff redundant and outsourced the work to India”.

Experts predict the knock-on effect could continue for several days and BA is facing huge compensation costs, with reports suggesting the bill could top £100 million.

Mr Cruz said the airline was “committed” to following all compensation rules.

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