Airline passengers are facing a second day of Heathrow hell today, with a perfect storm of problems including a British Airways IT meltdown, long queues at the check-in desks and e-gate disruption.
After a major BA IT outage hit Terminal 5 yesterday, passengers were this morning greeted with long check-in queues at the west London airport.
Hundreds of passengers were also seen queuing for check-in at Terminal 2 this morning, after arriving for flights with Lufthansa.
It is not thought that the German carrier has been directly impacted by BA’s IT issues, though the disruption may be a knock-on effect from BA passengers attempting to rebook their flights.
Meanwhile, video shows a huge line of passengers queueing for a customer service desk in the departures lounge of Heathrow Terminal 5.
One passenger, who is currently stranded at the airport, said it will be two days before she is provided with a new flight.
To add to the chaos, arrivals to Heathrow are also facing passport control woes, with passengers complaining that just a third of the available e-gates are in use.
It followed a BA systems meltdown yesterday, which has so far affected more than 5,000 passengers, including those on long-haul flights.
At least 50 short-haul flights to and from London have been cancelled today due to the disruption, which BA say mainly impacted its operations at Terminal 5.
According to airline data firm, FlightAware, yesterday’s cancellations mean there have been hundreds of BA flights either cancelled or delayed over the last seven days.
However BA say the figure includes any delay, including those caused by late passengers, as well as historic cancellations, such as on flights to Moscow or those removed from the schedule due to Covid’s impact on the travel industry.
Meanwhile BA insists yesterday’s IT issues have since been resolved, but that it expects disruption to continue today and ‘minimal’ disruption into tomorrow. However aviation experts say the issue is being ‘exacerbated’ by staff shortages.
Heathrow says it has been supporting impacted BA customers, while the Home Office, who run passport control at Heathrow through its Border Force, say queues at the e-gates ‘peaked at 45 minutes’ earlier today. MailOnline has also contacted Lufthansa.
Hundreds of passengers were seen queuing for check-in at Terminal 2 (pictured) this morning following the BA global systems meltdown yesterday, which has so far affected more than 5,000 passengers
Video shows a huge line of passengers queueing for a customer service desk in the departures lounge of Heathrow Terminal 5 yesterday
It followed a BA systems meltdown yesterday, which has so far affected more than 5,000 passengers, including those on long-haul flights. Pictured: Long queues at Heathrow yesterday
To add to the chaos, arrivals to Heathrow are now facing passport hall woes, with passengers complaining that just a third of the available e-gates are in use
It comes after BA’s system was hit with a ‘technical issue’ yesterday, causing dozens of flights across Europe to be cancelled or delayed.
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At least two flights were diverted mid-air from Heathrow to London Gatwick, more than 40 miles away.
Dozens of other flights were cancelled yesterday, including two long-haul flights, with at least 50 cancelled today. BA say some of the cancellations are historic.
One passenger caught up in the disruption was Michelle Heinrich, a student and translator from Germany who lives in Coventry.
She had been due to fly to Germany at 5.40pm on Wednesday, but said problems had started as early as 2.40pm when passengers tried to check in and drop bags off.
When the gate number was due to be announced, passengers were instead told the flight was delayed by two hours. That time came and went.
At around 9pm, a gate number was finally announced. Then, as passengers waited to board, they were told the flight had in fact been cancelled.
Ms Heinrich said there was ‘silence and confusion’ among passengers. British Airways staff seemed equally in the dark but ‘did the best they could’ to assist passengers.
While food vouchers were provided to stranded passengers, it was not the case with accommodation.
Hundreds of passengers were seen queuing for check-in at Terminal 2 this morning, after arriving for flights with German carrier Lufthansa
While yesterday’s issue was with Heathrow in Terminal 5, passengers today took to Twitter to complain of issues with Terminal 2 and Lufthansa
The airline said the fault had affected its operation for ‘a short time’ and was resolved shortly before 5.30pm, the vast majority of flights on the airline’s live tracker were shown as departing late or cancelled from 2pm to 9.30pm
One passenger said just a third of e-gates, which are operated via the UK Border Force, were open when they went through Heathrow this morning
‘I’m stranded at Heathrow with no accommodation and a flight two days away. I’ve been given a food voucher but I’m not sure what’s going to happen today,’ Ms Heinrich said.
‘It’s another day and night before I can fly. British Airways have not been communicating with us.’
She added that the only communication from the airline had come half an hour after her flight was cancelled – to say the flight was not going ahead.
Earlier, British Airways announced dozens of planes were delayed and cancelled on Wednesday by a technical issue with British Airways.
Meanwhile passengers today vented their anger at the queues at passport control.
One passenger said just a third of e-gates, which are operated via the UK Border Force, were open when they went through Heathrow this morning.
Stuart Cook wrote: ‘Love Heathrow. 15 e-gates, about 5 open, long lines of people stacked everywhere and random signs saying ‘keep a safe distance’ here and there. Good to be back.’
Frustrated BA passengers, meanwhile, used social media to vent frustration over long delays with the carrier yesterday.
The airline said the fault had affected its operation for ‘a short time’ and was resolved shortly before 5.30pm, the vast majority of flights on the airline’s live tracker were shown as departing late or cancelled from 2pm to 9.30pm.
The airline apologised for the issue and said it ‘deeply regretted’ being forced to cancel flights on Wednesday evening.
Disruption to the flight schedule is expected to continue today, with the possibility of ‘very minimal’ cancellations on Friday, MailOnline understands.
However one expert warned BA’s repeated IT meltdowns were being ‘exacerbated by staff shortages’. Aviation consultant John Strickland, of JLS Consulting, said the airline is left ‘floundering’ when it faces problems such as those at Heathrow on Wednesday.
Mr Strickland said: ‘They seem to have staff shortage issues coming out of the pandemic, and I know definitely that’s something which is going to be more widespread with airlines because of the number of people who were let go.
‘With what happened (on Wednesday), maybe if that extra issue wasn’t there in the background, maybe less flights would have been delayed or ultimately cancelled.
‘Once the dominoes start to fall, if your manpower is not up to proper planned establishment then you’re really floundering even more.’
He said the carrier is ‘in the process’ of improving its IT systems, but ‘you just can’t click your fingers and have it all change overnight’.
Milena Franke, a student from Germany who is currently doing her Erasmus year abroad in Aberdeen, was one of those impacted by yesterday’s IT meltdown. She said she was delayed for hours trying to fly from Heathrow to Aberdeen.
The 22-year-old said: ‘I’ve been traveling from Germany to London Heathrow today with the initial plan of traveling further to Aberdeen. However, after landing in Heathrow around 9am, my flight to Aberdeen got cancelled right before I was supposed to walk to my gate.
‘As I didn’t know who to approach directly, I spent most of my time waiting for someone from the BA customer service hoping to receive further details but not a single person offered help.
‘Instead, I got advised to rebook my flight and select the next one leaving in the evening. However, this flight also got cancelled.
‘BA eventually managed to rebook my flight for tomorrow morning and upgraded me with the business class. It has been a terrifying experience, eventually resulting in the fact that I am now staying in a hotel with a slight hope of finally getting to travel tomorrow.’
A departures board at Heathrow earlier today showed dozens of flights being cancelled, with passengers told to go to customer services to check if they could get a rebook
Customers were reportedly met with huge queues at check-in desks and were unable to access any boarding information at Heathrow Airport on Wednesday
A second passenger, who was travelling to Washington via Heathrow with another family, described the issue as a ‘comedy of errors’.
He said: ‘Originally, our flights were due to leave at 8am this morning and so we were all ready to get the kids in bed last night for a 4am wake up only to be emailed at 7pm to say our flights had been cancelled and rearranged until later in the afternoon.
‘They only gave us an hour to connect in Heathrow so we had to fight to get an earlier flight there… but then ended up stuck in Heathrow from 3pm and still not taken off.
‘It’s been a comedy of errors, like no crew to board the plane, no crew to load the bags and now no clue what’s happening.
‘Obviously I feel gutted and exhausted. More about the lack of communication than anything else. It’s been a stressful day, but we’ll do what we have to for the kids.’
The issue is the latest to beset the airline in recent months. In late February, the airline was forced to cancel all short-haul flights from Heathrow for several hours due to a hardware problem.
A BA spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘We’re very sorry to say that as a result of the technical issue we experienced yesterday and predicted weather disruption, we have had to reduce our schedule at Heathrow today.
‘We’re taking steps to ensure as many customers as possible are able to travel as planned today.
‘We’ve apologised to our customers and are offering to refund or rebook them onto alternative flights, providing refreshment vouchers and hotel accommodation where needed.’
A Heathrow spokesperson said: ‘We are in the terminals supporting passengers whose journeys have been disrupted by the technical issue, experienced by British Airways yesterday.
‘Passengers are advised to check their flight status before travelling to the airport and we regret the inconvenience this issue has caused British Airways passengers.’
A Home Office spokesperson said: ‘The queues at Heathrow this morning did not exceed the standard length.
‘Border Force’s number one priority is to maintain a secure border, and we will not compromise on this.
‘We are working closely with all UK ports to ensure passengers have the smoothest possible journey, and we will continue to deploy our staff as flexibly as we can.’
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