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British Airways IT systems were down for a whole day

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May 30, 2017

The huge IT systems failure that grounded British Airways flights for a whole day appears to have been caused by a piece of networking hardware that failed to cope with a power surge and then the messaging system itself failed as a result.

We asked British Airways' senior communications desk to explain what went wrong, what equipment failed, what disaster recovery arrangements were in place and why they appear not to have worked as they should have.

The airline company hasn't yet responded to our requests for information, so we've instead reviewed the interviews that company CEO Alex Cruz gave to British television outlets and pieced together an account of the catastrophic service outage.

Cruz asserted that a power surge of some type took systems offline and that backup power then failed in a cascading manner.

Cruz added a little more detail about what went wrong, as follows: ``On Saturday morning around 9:30 local time there was indeed a power surge that had a nasty effect over some communications hardware which eventually affected the messaging across our IT systems. Tens of millions of messages every day that are shared across 200 various systems across the BA network and it actually affected all of those systems across the network.``

Speaking to Channel 4 News, Cruz added-- "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 that outsourcing was not the source of the issue as the affected infrastructure was maintained by BA people in its IT department.

Speaking to the BBC, he then asserted-- "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 the media didn't rule out that the staff responsible were not BA employees.

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

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

Cruz is also sending a message that the airline is just about back in the skies, with about 96 percent of flights expected to proceed as normal and about 68.3 percent of stranded passengers now having been moved on to their destinations.

Cruz has also committed to paying all required compensation. However, the airline still appears to be missing a few critical elements. The airline's own YouTube interview with Cruz says the airline's website features prominent links to data on how to claim some compensation.

All we could find was a generic compensation 'claim page' for lost luggage. The version of the front page that you can view offered no information on any 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. (sic)

That review promises to be interesting, but Cruz hasn't said when it will arrive... For now, he's repeatedly said, the airline company is focused more on sorting things out for passengers it has left in the outage.

Source: British Airways.


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