Passengers travelling from Heathrow Airport are facing holiday chaos as British Airways cancelled at least 175 flights due to an IT issue.
Around 80 flights due to depart the major London airport were grounded on Thursday following a “technical issue” with the airline’s IT systems. A further 95 flights have been affected today (26 May), which was expected to be the UK's busiest travel day since before the Covid pandemic.
Aviation analytics firm Cirium said Friday was expected to see the most departures from UK airports since December 20 2019, with more than 3,000 flights planned as families head overseas ahead of the half-term school holiday in England and Wales.
Friday’s chaos was caused by planes and crew being out of position due to the IT problem. Around 20,000 passengers are thought to have been affected by the cancellations. The issues also led to widespread delays to other flights, leaving some passengers unable to check in online.
The airline said cancellations have been focused on routes with several daily flights where possible to allow passengers to rebook at alternative times.
A British Airways spokeswoman said: “While the vast majority of our flights continue to operate today, we have cancelled some of our short-haul flights from Heathrow due to the knock-on effect of a technical issue that we experienced yesterday.
“We’ve apologised to customers whose flights have been affected and offered them the option to rebook to an alternative flight with us or another carrier, or request a refund.”
Heathrow said the problem was not related to an ongoing strike by security officers at Terminal 5, which began on Thursday and saw around 1,400 members of staff walk out over pay.
BA said that the majority of its flights on Thursday had been unaffected by the system issues, but the airline has been attempting to re-book or refund customers affected by the cancellations.
Technical IT issues have caused problems for the airline in the past, with almost 75,000 customers left stranded in 2017 after a major outage, while dozens of long-haul flights were cancelled in December 2022 due to IT issues.
A tweet from British Airways at 11.27pm on Thursday said its “systems are back up and running” but there might still be “intermittent issues”. Customers can receive refunds, rebook or if they have to stay overnight they will be offered meals and hotel accommodation.
Elsewhere, the Port of Dover was also busy on Friday as thousands of people embark on cross-Channel ferry trips. Ferry operator DFDS said shortly before 8.30am there was a wait of around an hour at border control for travellers in cars, while coach traffic was “free-flowing”.
The RAC has estimated that UK drivers will embark on 19.2 million leisure car trips between Friday and Monday as people make the most of the bank holiday weekend.
Transport data company Inrix has warned that journeys on some stretches of the M25 will take up to three times longer than normal, including clockwise from Junction 23 for Hatfield to Junction 28 for Chelmsford, and anticlockwise towards the Dartford Crossing. Long delays are also expected on the M5 in Somerset and the M6 in Cheshire and Greater Manchester.