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British Airways blames glitch for long check-in delays

Sep 06, 20163 mins
Data and Information SecurityEnterprise ApplicationsSecurity

The computer system glitch affected travelers globally as the airline had to go old school with pen and paper

The old “IT glitch” was reportedly the cause of British Airways’ multi-continent check-in delays on Monday. Angry travelers waited in check-in queues for hours while the airline fell back on the old school method of handwriting records, boarding passes and baggage labels.

British Airways has been rolling out a new check-in system since last year; a BA spokesperson described the check-in delays as “teething problems.”

At first, BA claimed the glitch causing check-in delays was not a worldwide problem, but a “patchy” problem. While the glitch in the check-in system affected more than people in the U.K., travelers took to Twitter to complain about long delays in at least San Diego, Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco, Rome, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Vancouver, the Bahamas, D.C., Seattle, Zurich, and Mexico City.

A letter given to delayed British Airways’ travelers in San Francisco said the airline was “experiencing problems with the computer systems” and would use a “manual fallback process.” Apparently British Airways needed about 30 minutes to set up the pen and paper method. Yet some travelers waited in check-in queues for hours.

British Airways released a statement announcing, “Our IT teams are working as hard as they can to quickly fix a problem with our check-in system. This has affected a number of our airports. We are sorry for the delays some customers are experiencing as they check in for their flights.”

Later, British Airways said some flights had been cancelled on Monday “due to operational reasons” but that specialists were “working to resolve this issue.” Customers were advised to check in online before reaching the airport.

Newcastle native Trevor Todd told NBC the captain of his delayed flight “made an announcement blaming the airline’s recently introduced ‘Fly’ software used for check-in and bags at airports.” Todd called the tarmac with unclaimed bags chaotic, adding that he had “never seen anything like this in 20 years of flying.”

Approximately 323 British Airways flights were delayed on Monday, according to tracking by Flight Aware. Although the airline claimed check-ins at Heathrow and Gatwick airports were back to normal today, Flight Aware shows another 288 flights delayed so far. Tweeters also disputed the back to normal check-in claim.

The British Airways site still states, “Check in may take a bit longer than usual, so we would encourage customers to check in online before they reach the airport. We are sorry for the delay to your journey.”

Other airline delays

British Airways passengers were not the only ones to experience delays on Monday; London City Airport tweeted there was a “disruption to all flights due to protestors at the airport.” The protest was part of the Black Lives Matter movement; protesters reportedly blocked the runway for six hours until police removed and arrested them.

Last month, Delta Airlines suffered a global outage after an equipment failure in Atlanta led to the shutdown of its computer systems. Three weeks before that, Southwest Airlines had to cancel thousands of flights after a notebook-sized router failed at a data center in Dallas and it took 13 hours to reboot its systems.

ms smith

Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.