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British Airways IT glitch grounds flights and delays passenger check-in times

British Airways claims services are returning to normal following an unknown IT glitch, but is advising passengers to check-in online to avoid long delays at airports

British Airways has assured passengers its IT team is in the throes of fixing a technical glitch that led to flight cancellations and check-in delays at several major UK airports.

The airline is understood to have cancelled and delayed flights on 5 September 2016, after the IT systems underpinning its check-in and luggage drop services apparently failed at multiple airports worldwide.

According to a report on BBC News, this led to passengers being issued with handwritten boarding passes and luggage tags, as British Airways staff attempted to work around the issues.

In response to the delays, disgruntled British Airways passengers have turned to social networking site Twitter to air their frustrations about being made to wait.

In a statement to Computer Weekly, a British Airways spokesperson said the company is now checking-in customers as normal at Heathrow and Gatwick airports, but is advising passengers to expect long queues and to consider using its online check-in services instead.

According to the British Airways flight status page, three flights out of Heathrow to Geneva, Aberdeen and Brussels have been cancelled this morning, and many others are reported as delayed or departing late.

The situation appears a little better at Gatwick, with no flight cancellations being reported this morning, while the vast majority of flights appear to be running on time.

At the time of writing, the organisation said it was unable to shed any light on the root cause of the issues.

“Our priority has been to get check-in back up and running. We will now assess the cause and any actions necessary,” the spokesperson added.

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British Airways is not the only major airline to have experienced technical difficulties of late, as Delta Air Lines was forced to ground flights worldwide in early August 2016 after a power outage knocked out its computer systems around the world.

Bill Curtis, senior vice-president and chief scientist at software analytics company Cast, said the complexity of airline software systems means even relatively small glitches can create major problems.

“Airline computers juggle multiple systems that must interact to control gate, reservations, ticketing and frequent fliers. Each of those pieces may have been written separately by different companies. Even if an airline has backup systems, the software running those likely has the same coding flaw,” he said.

“Tracking down a software flaw can be very difficult. It’s like investigating crime; there is a lot of data they’ve got to sift through to figure out what happened.”

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