Hundreds of thousands of passengers in the United Kingdom have been stranded at Gatwick and Heathrow airports over the weekend after a “systems outage” cancelled most flights on Saturday and Sunday.
It’s now being reported that British Airline CEO Alex Cruz is being blamed for the disaster, and he’s attempting to keep a lid on the problem by telling staff not to talk about the problems the airline has experienced due to outsourcing its IT department to India.
In an email to staff obtained by the Daily Mail, Cruz wrote: “Guys, either you are part of the team working to fix this or you aren’t. We are not in the mode of ‘debriefing on what happened’ but rather ‘let’s fix this mode’.”
He added, “In the meantime, if you do not want to get involved or cannot get involved, I would kindly ask you to refrain from live commentary, unless it is a message of support to the thousands of colleagues that love BA as much as you do.”
Photos of passengers sleeping on the floors of Heathrow and Gatwick Airports and standing in long, snaking lines by the thousands have been circulating through news outlets and social media, while those who tried to re-book their flights are concerned that BA’s failure will end up costing them money as well as time.
A founder of budget carrier Clickair and former CEO of airline Vueling before taking the lead position at British Airways in 2016, Cruz is accused of replacing British IT professionals with cheap overseas workers, and stories that a whistle-blower claimed bosses knew about the “dodgy” systems is providing potentially damning evidence.
Aviation expert Julian Bray told reporters, “I would have expected someone with major international airline experience to be put in charge, rather than someone who has been in charge of two smaller airlines, with an indifferent financial record,” adding, “I don’t feel he has the depth of knowledge required to inject radical competitive new thinking into the up-market British Airways brand.”
Bray noted, “Cruz is known as being an outsourcer and cost-cutter, stripping out frills and cutting head count, and therefore not particularly suited to an upmarket, people-intensive, luxury-price brand.”
European law gives passengers the right to demand “re-routing, under comparable transport conditions, to their final destination at the earliest opportunity” in the event that a scheduled flight is cancelled, but BA passengers were reportedly informed that they would not receive refunds for flights rebooked on other airlines.
According to the airline, “If we weren’t able to offer a suitable alternative flight we would offer a full refund of any unused sectors on your booking with us, but any alternative flights booked via different carriers would be at your own expense and would have to be claimed back through travel insurance.”
After spending £1,000 on new flights on Lufthansa, passenger Mark Dillingham said, “Do we lose this money even though British Airways was uncontactable? We couldn’t enter the terminal, and the phone lines were shut.”
Twitter users are complaining about the problem, such as Melissa Riggs, who tweeted, “@British_Airways are already refusing to pay onward travel you’ve booked yourself rather than wait in their 11 hour queue”.
— Melissa Riggs (@riggsysoprano) May 28, 2017
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