Bank holiday travel chaos as 175 British Airways flights cancelled amid ‘technical issue’

Holiday plans for thousands of families have been ruined after British Airways cancelled at least 175 flights on Thursday and Friday due to the knock-on effects of a technical glitch.

Most of the affected flights were on short-haul routes to and from Heathrow Airport on what was expected to be the busiest day for UK air travel since before the pandemic.

Friday’s chaos was caused by planes and crew being out of position after an IT problem grounded around 92 flights on Thursday.

This means more than 20,000 passenger journeys were axed. Flights were not expected to be disrupted on Saturday.

Some passengers due to leave on Friday received an email in the early hours of the morning notifying them of their cancelled flight. Other flights have been delayed.

One customer wrote on Twitter: “Flight cancelled at 1.50am, meant to fly 6.30am. Only option given is for a flight in 24 hours for a two-day weekend in Athens. Thanks for ruining half term.”

Another wrote: “Wake up this AM to email at 2.23am saying flight cancelled. Chaos!”

Passengers are being urged to check their flight status before travelling to the airport.

BA told the Standard: “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.”

The airline added that where possible cancellations have been focused on routes with several daily flights, enabling passengers to rebook at alternative times.

Heathrow Airport said the cancellations are not due to airport strikes. Industrial action by Heathrow Airport staff is planned from March 25 to 27.

“British Airways is currently working to resolve a technical issue with a number of its systems. We have additional Heathrow colleagues on-hand in the terminals to provide passengers with any additional assistance required,” a spokesperson said.

Customers can receive refunds, re-book or if they have to stay overnight they will be offered meals and hotel accommodation.

One affected customer said on social media on Thursday: “People stuck on planes for nearly an hour so far because no buses to transport them. BA systems crash again, chaos!”

Another added: “Stranded on the taxiway at Heathrow on BA 278 from San Jose for an hour so far with no prospect of moving due to another IT failure? Don’t need this after a long flight?”

A third said: “First time going away since the before times, and currently been stuck in a stationary plane at Heathrow for an hour already because the whole of BA’s IT systems have fallen over”.

The travel disruption comes at a busy time for family getaways, as it is half term from Saturday.

The airline has previously been hit with technical glitches, most recently in December.

That fault caused major disruption to the airline’s schedule for two hours, predominantly on long-haul flights, because planes were unable to access the global flight plan system.

It comes as the Port of Dover was busy on Friday as thousands of people embark on cross-Channel ferry trips.

The Kent port said shortly after 1pm that “traffic is currently processing well”, with waiting times of one hour for coaches and “under one hour” for cars.

Coach passengers at the Kent port also suffered delays of several hours ahead of the Easter school holidays.

The RAC estimated that drivers across the UK will embark on 19.2 million leisure car trips between Friday and Monday as people make the most of the bank holiday weekend.