'What the hell is going on?': British Airways IT problems cancel flights as bank holiday travel chaos begins

26 May 2023, 15:48 | Updated: 26 May 2023, 16:13

Some 140 flights have been cancelled by the airline.
Some 140 flights have been cancelled by the airline. Picture: Alamy/getty

By Jenny Medlicott

Masses of British Airways customers have lost out on their bank holiday getaways and thousands of pounds amid travel chaos caused by technical difficulties.

Social media has been lit up with complaints from British Airways customers over the last day following a torrent of travel chaos started by unexplained IT issues at BA.

The cancellations, which have now spilled over into its second day, come on the busiest day for UK air travel since 2019 as the bank holiday weekend approaches.

Queues at Dover have been building all day with waits as long as 60 minutes to be expected, as Brits gear up to travel for the bank holiday weekend in what is expected to be the first return to pre-pandemic levels.

Roughly 16,000 passengers have been affected by the cancellations at BA, as travel correspondents calculate more than 150 flights have been impacted.

Antony Knights, who was supposed to be flying to Berlin for a weekend away with his wife, was forced to cancel his entire weekend amounting to £1,800 in total.

He told LBC: "My wife and I were due to fly to Berlin from London Heathrow on Thursday for a long weekend and due to return on Monday 29th.

"The trip had been planned since September 2022 to celebrate my wife’s promotion; we were going to see Hans Zimmer on his world tour tonight and spend the rest of the weekend in Berlin.

"We had hired a car and driven from our home town of Plymouth to Heathrow – a journey of ~3.5–4h depending on traffic."

Initially no delays had been reported to the pair and all seemed ready to go ahead as normal. Then they received notice their flight had been delayed half an hour. Then they were told to contact the airline. Until eventually, they had to find out for themselves their flight had been cancelled altogether.

“I went to look for the Customer Service  - the queue was already 75-100m long. Two BA people on the desk but elsewhere in the terminal, they were nowhere to be found. It was absolute chaos," Antony said.

"I asked if BA could book us onto a new flight and accommodation for the night as no more flights were scheduled for the day. They said no – go to the BA website and do it yourself."

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The airline apologised in a statement on Thursday.
The airline apologised in a statement on Thursday. Picture: Alamy

But all alternative flights, trains and other options quickly sold out.

"We were out of options. We couldn’t get to Berlin for tonight to see Hans Zimmer - the tickets useless, the hotel accommodation in Berlin paid for via booking.com and therefore not refundable at that stage.

"All in all, the cost of trip is now at around £1800 for the 4 nights and nothing to show for it aside from us being extremely angry at BA and disappointed to not be in Berlin to see a show that we had booked months ago to celebrate an amazing personal success for my wife.

"Their failure to communicate is the most annoying thing – I understand sometimes things happen, but this is avoidable and dealt with extremely badly.

"We are fortunate, we can afford to cover the extra costs we have incurred (~£450), but others will not be so lucky."

And Antony wasn’t the only one let down this bank holiday weekend either, as other social media users took to Twitter to complain about their disappointing experiences with the airline.

One complained on Thursday evening that after a BA cancellation, no alternative flights were available at least another two days.

She wrote: “BA couldn’t get me on another flight for 48 hours so I’ve had to go to another airport and fly with a different airline. I’ve incurred additional expenses of around £600 at this point just to get home.”

Some 16,000 passengers have been affected by the cancellations.
Some 16,000 passengers have been affected by the cancellations. Picture: Alamy

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Another said: “British Airways bloody nightmare. Turned up at Heathrow at 5:30. Flight cancelled to Basel. No help from staff. Supposed to be picking up a river cruise for 50th. Awful.

“It so far has cost me £125 for the taxi to get here for 5am. This was supposed to be a celebration. We are teachers and have to plan around school holidays so losing the cruise at the other end is huge for us.”

Others have managed to successfully board their flights, take off and land – only to find their luggage has been left behind.

Writing on Twitter, one said: “Landed in JFK and British Airways didn’t load anyone’s luggage…so that’s a nice start to our trip…I guess I’ll be wearing my freebie pyjamas tomorrow.”

A further 42 flights have been cancelled so far today, in the spillover from yesterday's cancellations.

Mostly short-haul flights have been affected by the IT problems, but some other non-domestic flights have faced issues too.

Responding to the flurry of complaints, a British Airways spokesman said: "While the vast majority of our flights continue to operate today, we have cancelled some of our short-haul flights from Heathrow due to the knock-on effect of a technical issue that we experienced yesterday."

The airline apologised on Thursday, referencing "technical problems" as the reason for the cancellations.

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