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Julian Bray provides: Opinion, comment, forward thinking speculation on Travel, Cruise & Aviation: conflict zones, terrorist impact, drone (UAV) issues, safety (black boxes, emergencies), airline operations, aviation finance, political implications, and all forms of incident risk. Worked at board level with several airline and aviation groups, including Alitalia, British Island Airways, British Airways, Galileo , British Aerospace, Skyways, former CEO City firm Leadenhall Assoc. Founder CNS City News Service. Director NTN Television News (joint co. with ITV Wales TWW) Debretts People 2017 and in launch edition of PRWeek Black Book.

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Monday, 29 May 2017

BRITISH AIRWAYS COMPUTER MELTDOWN: THE CHAIRMAN AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE SPEAKS TO A REPORTER SHOCK HORROR Julian Bray reports....




Another champion of failure....

BA COMPUTER MELTDOWN SKETCH by Julian Bray.

Perhaps it would have been easier (and possibly cheaper) to offer Willie Walsh boss of the Spanish/Anglo IAG Group (who now own the BA brand), the peninsular known as  Gibraltar rather than put some 300,000 British Airways passengers through the living hell ,that is also known as BA Heathrow Terminal 5 and have it repeated at airports all over the world?  

Information Technology (IT) people will tell you that the Spanish Anglo owned British Airways isn't unique in having its services disrupted by a power surge but it might be the first one to mute for a couple of days its current British Airways Spanish born Chairman and Chief Executive a Mr Cruz (now sporting in a media interview, a natty well trimmed beard and pristine pressed white shirt and a tres continentale double Windsor tie knot) clearly he didn't spend the last few nights in solidarity with his displaced and dispossessed BA customers crouched on a thin yoga mat.

 Mr Alex Cruz does seem to have opted over the last few days, for self imposed purdah, only emerging to 'don' (see what we did there?) a new high viz vest whilst standing in his office, for his calming twitter released video to camera. 

Travellers will know is the law in Spain, that all car drivers must keep such a high viz vest on display inside the car, usually draped over the back of the drivers seat, so the Spanish police can always see it!  Expect to see the same on every BA plane sometime soon...

Some of our American cousins  Delta Air Lines suffered an outage in August 2016, when a basic powerline switch box into the company's headquarters failed, grounding flights worldwide.

Exceptionally unlucky, it also happened to Southwest Airlines a few weeks earlier, this time a network router was to blame.

British Airways has more than one data centre, and the same power surge could have damaged two sited close together.  But it does make you wonder how the surge has knocked out the entire BA network but hasn't touched any other brand in the IAG stable of airline brands.
  
 A few years ago BA coughed to the fact that it has data centres on sites adjacent to its Waterside global headquarters near Heathrow. 

The locations were we are told, leaked by suppliers in trade press releases so we now know British Airways uses dcTrack across its data centre infrastructure.

Keith Bott, is the BA Data centre service manager - if he hasn't been replaced by a TATA employed IT Tier 2 Visa holding person from India.  

Those data sites, house they say 500 data cabinets in six halls, but no one is saying how ancient ( or legacy ) they are, all very good but you would have expected in any Enterprise set up, a strong link to a viable disaster data recovery centre to be part of the plan?  

Mr Cruz, is saying they still do not know what happened and why the long standing comprehensive BA back up plan didn't work and simply failed to take over and save the day. 

Clearly Mr Cruz has power and vision beyond us mere mortals, as on the TV News he vowed this would never ever happen again? HOW ON EARTH DOES HE KNOW THIS?

A handout from the BA PR office arrives, who seem to have found the data key to dust off and unlock their Remington typewriters, locate the Tippex, ink up the Gestetner, first cutting the skins... ( do keep up you need to be over 50 to understand this). Anyway the rose scented purple prose duly wafted off the paper:  

"When the customer disruption is completely over, we will undertake an exhaustive investigation to find out the exact circumstances and most importantly ensure that this can never happen again,"

The computer trade press not convinced laconically tweeted,  that was probably Delta's intention too -- until its IT systems went down again in January 2017, it stopped 150 flights. The U.S. Federal Aviation Authority brightly said "automation issues" had caused the cancellations.

Between ticket refunds and mounting compo. payments British Airways, like Delta before it, unable to rely on its back up systems and alternative power supplies are looking at a black hole of hundreds of millions in their forward balance sheets.

But computer experts the world over ( particularly India) are chanting in unison even businesses that aren't trying to juggle hundreds of planes in the air, capacity filled with humans and exotic fruit in the cargo bays,  would do well to test whether backup, failover and business continuity plans actually work before disaster strikes. 

If your firms hasn't done so in the last few weeks perhaps now would be a good time to test it? Or at least switch the system on and off at the mains a few times, works for me.

Finally after my lunchtime slot on the excellent BBC TV News channel, no doubt the BBC has back up power too...this very to the point email winged its way over a data system that is still working from a long standing British airways passenger,  Professor Ronald Barnett. We read, weep and feel your pain Ronald...
   

The Professor wrote:

Very interesting to see and hear you on the BBC news programme today, Mr Bray.  I would echo all you say.  May I add just a few quick points?

I am simply a member of the public and a 'frequent flyer' with BA.  Over recent years, I have witnessed and felt first-hand a decline in its offer to passengers.  

This includes - as well as the charging for food on short-haul flights and the compression of the seat pitch (which latter I didn't know about) - changing the tariff such that it becomes more difficult to protect one's 'silver card' status (even though I travel regularly around the world, I am bound to lose my silver card and so lose access to the One World lounges around the world).   When I lose that, I shall have no incentive to travel BA.  

There are numerous other examples of cost-cutting in the service on-board (even withdrawing the snacks available on long-haul flights, both with drinks and in the galley area, and reducing the quality of the environment in club class (so I have been told!)) and in the level of service in general (phone-calls are put through - with outsourcing - to India call centres, where staff - however willing - are not able to offer the level of service to which one is entitled).

I have spoken to cabin directors and (amazingly) a long phone conversation with the head of its marketing dept, and all sympathise with my perceptions.  And I gather that crew staff have seen major reductions in their conditions of service.  

I used to value flying with BA and did see it as possibly the world's best airline; but no longer.   To me, it has become simply an airline with very many budget characteristics.  Now, flying BA is simple a chore to be worked through.  It offers nothing special at all.  Indeed, quite to the contrary.  (Now, if I can, in flying to South America, I will fly LATAM in preference, for example.)

I gather that Mr Cruz and BA have been subject to masses of complaints from customers these past years but I also gather that those complaints go unanswered - and, more disturbingly, unheeded.

These changes to BA have had and are having an impact on my life.   Something has been lost.  And when I lose my silver card, that will be the end of any loyalty I have to BA.  Very sad.  (A twin sister of mine worked for BA for over 20 years so we have this loyalty to BA in the family.)  For me, the BA brand is now severely dented.

The recent news not only about the power 'outage' but also about BA's refusal to be questioned in public over this latest debacle and the little (or no) information provided to passengers waiting for hours simply fits with the 'budget' character that BA has now assumed.  There is a lack of regard and concern for its customers and for the public at large.

What is surprising is that a large corporation should adopt a set of policies that are bound deleteriously to change its brand, and send it downmarket.  The result is that the national carrier is now in a different and lower division as compared with other major national carriers. (That Mr Cruz is both CEO and Chairman of the Board may help to explain this situation.)

No need to come back to me on any of this - I know you will be extremely busy.  Just wanted to add my twopennyworth to your spot-on remarks.

Very kindly
(Professor) Ronald Barnett

 -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Have you seen Alex Cruz?




Alex Cruz

Chairman and CEO
British Airways
 
Alex began his professional career at American Airlines in 1995, spending 5 years at the group with its travel technology arm, Sabre, in London, working with several European airlines.  In 2000, a partner at Arthur D Little, 2 years later sets up an aviation consulting firm.  In 2005, joins Accenture as head of aviation.
A year later (2006) starts up Clickair, a Barcelona-based budget airline, merging with Vueling in 2009 appointed Vueling’s Chairman and CEO. Vueling sold to International Airline Group (IAG) in 2013, Alex Cruz joins the IAG Management Committee. Three years later April 2016, Alex Cruz, Chairman and CEO of Spanish/Anglo owned British Airways.
He was a visiting lecturer at the IESE Business School Madrid and the ESADE Business & Law School in Barcelona.

Born in Bilbao, Spain. He has a degree in industrial engineering from Central Michigan University, an MSc from Ohio State University, and Business Management & Administration degree from Cox School of Business in Dallas.

He is married with four children and lives in .....  London.



JULIAN BRAY +44(0)1733 345581, Journalist & Broadcaster, Aviation Security & Airline Operations Analyst/expert, www.freelancedirectory.org?name=Julian.Bray.aviation.comment Travel / Maritime & Cruise Industry, NUJ, EQUITY, LIVE ISDN LINK, Broadcast ISDN COOBE ++44 (0)1733 345020 e&oe Old faithful NOKIA: 07944 217476 www.aviationcomment.com
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