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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 November 2018

Travel chaos at Heathrow strikes UAE-bound travellers

A fire earlier on Wednesday then an IT system outage delayed thousands of people on British Airways planes

A number of British Airways flights were cancelled or being delayed by several hours at Heathrow's Terminal 5, according to the airport's departure board. British Airways
A number of British Airways flights were cancelled or being delayed by several hours at Heathrow's Terminal 5, according to the airport's departure board. British Airways

Hundreds of travellers from London Heathrow to the UAE were among those stranded overnight as chaos overtook the British airport on Wednesday. Flights by British Airways to Dubai were delayed for more than three hours due to problems with a supplier’s IT systems, the airline said.

A number of British Airways flights were cancelled or being delayed by several hours at Heathrow’s Terminal 5, according to the airport’s departure board. The 10.25pm BA105 flight was put back to 4pm on Thursday, along with flights to Dubai run by Aer Lingus and Iberia.

“We are working with our supplier to resolve the matter and are sorry for the disruption to our customers’ travel plans,” British Airways said in a statement.

The airline confirmed to The National that all passengers on the 10.25pm flight would either have been put up in a hotel in the environs of the airport, or, failing that, that all passengers would be recompensed for finding accommodation further afield and would be provided transport to and from the airport to enable them to make their flight to Dubai on Thursday.

The carrier suffered a massive computer system failure in May 2017, caused by a power supply issue near Heathrow, which stranded 75,000 customers over a busy holiday weekend.

Its chief executive said at the time it would take steps to ensure such an incident never happened again.

Travel journalist Alex Macheras said on Twitter that the airline had confirmed their flights were the only ones affected, although this appears to not just be an issue for the carrier:

Passengers at the airport on Wednesday described chaotic scenes as people tried to catch flights and complained there was a lack of information from the airline.

Twitter user World in 80 Dives told a forlorn tale of waiting for BA105 to leave while facing multiple delays before its eventual postponement to Thursday. Speaking to the British Airways help team, he noted at 8.51pm local time:

After being reassured that the flight would be leaving soon, he was hit by another delay:

His wait continued:

Finally he discovered that the flight was postponed and voiced frustrations no doubt shared by many:

Lydia, another Twitter user, pointed out that passengers who had already crossed through to the flight side of Heathrow airport were being forced to return through immigration before they could even find their way to a hotel:

Traveller Jack Darby complained on Twitter that British Airways had failed passengers grounded overnight: “A system failure should not prevent you picking up the phone to find hotels and transport for your passengers. Plenty of customers including me in for a night at Heathrow because there are no free hotels within your travel allowance. You should ashamed”.

“Utter chaos at LHR, no communication, no emergency processes and no clue,” one passenger Dominic Hill said on Twitter.

Andy McGurk also posted on the social media platform, saying “Hearing about another #BritishAirways IT meltdown at #Heathrow... cutting costs on essentials like IT inevitably lead to brand damaging issues like this.”

A number of flights at the airport were earlier disrupted after a control tower was evacuated because of a fire alarm.

“We apologise for any inconvenience that this has caused,” a spokeswoman said. “Emergency services responded using our regular safety procedures, and our operations have started to resume.”