LONDON — British Airways has canceled all Saturday flights from London’s two biggest airports after “a major IT system failure” caused severe disruption to flight operations worldwide, the airline said.
“There’s no evidence it’s a cyberattack,” airline officials said.
The airline originally canceled only flights before 1 p.m. ET (6 p.m. BST).
“We are working hard to get our customers who were due to fly today onto the next available flights over the course of the rest of the weekend,” the airline said in a statement Saturday afternoon. “Those unable to fly will be offered a full refund.”
The system outage — on Britain’s spring break holiday weekend — has “affected our call centres and our website but we will update customers as soon as we are able to,” the airline said.
British Airways has not outlined how many flights were canceled, nor how many people were affected.
“Most long-haul flights due to land in London tomorrow (Sunday, May 28) are expected to arrive as normal, and we are working to restore our services from tomorrow, although some delays and disruption may continue into Sunday,” the statement said.
In response to tweets from travelers, the airline said that it was experiencing a “global system outage” affecting its website, online check-in, contact centers and baggage tracing.
“Working on this as a matter of priority, but if your flight is departing tomorrow you may have to complete check in at the airport,” it tweeted to one customer.
The airline said it was “extremely sorry” for passengers’ inconvenience and was working to resolve the problem as soon as possible. Airline officials gave no indication of what might have caused the problem or when it would be fixed.
Airline workers ‘totally crippled’
Travelers were already reporting disruptions, including baggage and flight delays, when the airline reported serious computer problems around midday.
Heathrow officials said they were working with British Airways, which is based in the airport’s Terminal 5, “following an issue with their IT system this morning that has caused some delays for passengers.”
Gareth Ebenezer, who was on his way to Dublin to watch a rugby union final, told CNN he gave up and went home after getting caught up in the chaos at Heathrow.
Ebenezer saw lots of slow-moving lines, with some people asked to wait outside Terminal 5, he said. Most travelers seemed resigned, he said, though others appeared stressed, and some children were crying.
Most people were being rebooked on Sunday flights, he said, but by then, he’d already have missed his match.
“BA staff were slow on announcements and updates, and were bringing out cordons and bottles of water to manage queues,” Ebenezer said. “They seemed incapable of doing anything else, despite their best intentions, due to the system outage. They were totally crippled.”
‘Stuck on plane for 1 hour’
Some stranded passengers took to Twitter to voice their frustrations.
“Stuck at Heathrow Terminal 5. No updates or staff around,” travel writer and blogger @WildWayRound tweeted. “Have been stuck in a plane for 1 hour, and now at the airport for 2.”
Staff couldn’t find her baggage, including the gear she needs for a marathon Sunday, she said.
“Long line of planes on the tarmac,” tweeted Don Bowman, of North Carolina, adding that he’d only seen one plane leave Terminal 5 in the previous hour.
Filmmaker Philip Bloom tweeted that he was stuck on the tarmac at Heathrow after his delayed flight from Belfast, Northern Ireland, finally landed because there was no space for the aircraft to park.