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Saturday, September 23, 2023

British Airways Forced to Trim Schedule to Dodge Another Operational Meltdown

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British Airways will cut its schedule in the coming weeks to avoid a repetition of last week’s operational meltdown, which saw thousands of customers forced to ditch their luggage or wait for hours on idle aircraft at the airline’s flagship Heathrow Airport terminal.

Following a severe IT failure and staffing difficulties, Chief Executive Sean Doyle informed employees that many customers were “rightly fed up” with BA’s performance in recent weeks.

Doyle also said that he was “frustrated” with the airline’s performance, as did many of his coworkers. The airline’s quick ramp-up when pandemic travel restrictions were loosened caused most of the problems, according to the unhappy CEO.

“While it doesn’t make what we’re experiencing any better, and it isn’t an excuse, there is no airline or airport in the UK that isn’t experiencing issues,” Doyle explained.

After cutting its employment by thousands during the pandemic, Doyle thinks British Airways has to hire more people. Doyle added that, in the short term, BA would be obliged to cut flights to avoid a repetition of last week’s crisis, implying that the carrier can’t employ quickly enough.

Customers on canceled flights will be contacted in the coming days and given rebooking options.

Limited room at Heathrow’s Terminal 5, where BA is currently sharing space with Qatar Airways, China Southern, Iberia, and American Airlines, has made matters worse. One of Heathrow’s four terminals remains closed, with the airport operator estimating that T4 will not be operational until June at the earliest.

BA has had a string of embarrassing mistakes in the previous several weeks. The airline was hit hard by a late-winter storm in February, but efforts to get back on track were thwarted when an IT breakdown prompted BA to postpone all short-haul flights for 24 hours.

The airline then announced plans to end its mandatory face mask policy but faced an outcry from customers when executives abruptly changed their minds at the last minute. Face masks are still necessary on the majority of flights, although on a few chosen routes, they have been removed.

Then, due to a staffing deficit, client baggage was not offloaded from planes last weekend. Passengers were instructed to leave the airport without their possessions after waiting for hours for their baggage to be delivered.

Things may, however, get worse before they get better. “There is no doubt we have significant headwinds that we are facing,” Doyle told employees before saying that the future looked a lot more positive.


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