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Inverness man caught in British Airways IT failure which caused London Heathrow "pandemonium" still looking for answers from airline

By Federica Stefani

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Rob Fraser's luggage arrived only a week after the planned return date. Picture Gary Anthony.
Rob Fraser's luggage arrived only a week after the planned return date. Picture Gary Anthony.

AN Inverness man is still seeking answers after having to travel for two days due to a system failure of a UK carrier airline.

Robert Fraser, an SQA employee based in Inverness, was caught in the disruption as he was making his way back from Poland.

Flight delays and cancellations at Heathrow were caused by an IT malfunction on British Airways's system, causing even more disruption amongst the covid-related staff shortages the airline has been struggling with in the past month.

After planning a long weekend away to visit a friend, Mr Fraser's flight back home from Krakow was cancelled and his departure from the country delayed of one day, he found himself stuck in Heathrow

He said: "I travelled to Poland for a long weekend to see a friend, who is quite unwell.

"When they postponed my flight the first time that was quite ok, they gave me a bit of notice so I had the time to book a hotel. It was really when I arrived in Heathrow on Wednesday that the problems started.

Mr Fraser's planned wait of seven hours for his flight to Inverness got much longer after all British Airways flights from Heathrow were cancelled due to an IT failure.

Mr Fraser said: "You had hundreds of people trying to find out what was going on and at some point. I was lucky that I was able to use the lounge but there was an open bar as well, and with only two members of staff from BA that were dealing with all these hundreds of passengers some started becoming confrontational with them.

"When I finally got at the front of the queue, it turned out that all the hotels around our terminal were booked out, and the lounge was about to close so I was prepared to spend the night in the airport.

"Thankfully one member of staff to whom I had spoken previously and who had taken sympathy on me gave with some papers to get me to a hotel on one of the other terminals. Getting out of the airport was quite frankly. It took me almost two hours to get to the hotel and I wasn't able to get my luggage either so I had to find somewhere where to get some clean clothes since my bags were not available for collection.

"I was supposed to fly the day after at 7am but when I made my way back after only a few hours of sleep, it turned out that they hadn't fixed the issue and it was still an absolute pandemonium, with all flights cancelled again. Again, hundreds of people trying to talk to three members of staff from BA trying to understand what's going on."

"I had a lot of sympathy for the staff and the situation they had to deal with. They were criminally understaffed for the amount of people they had to deal with.

He was offered a substitute flight on Friday evening, after which he decided to find an alternative route, taking the train from Kings Cross to Edinburgh, and then being picked up from there by his wife after the connecting train was delayed.

His luggage containing a MacBook, his workphone and medication only made its way to Inverness Airport one week after Mr Fraser's departure from Poland, with the Macbook and other valuable items missing.

After more than 12 calls to the customer service number and several attempts at logging his refund request on the website, Mr Fraser has now been refunded for his expenses in Krakow and Heathrow and has been offered a voucher of £200. His request to be refunded for travel expenses from London to Inverness was refused, despite saying he was told by staff at the airport he would be entitled to a refund on the alternate route.

Cancelled flights at Heathrow Airport.
Cancelled flights at Heathrow Airport.

"I can understand the hotel in Edinburgh as it was our choice to stay there for the night, and I forgot to put a lock on my luggage as I thought it would have been a very quick journey," he said

"I really can't imagine to be flying with them again. They have made my life very difficult in the past weeks.

"I am quite willing to take this to the legal department, they have not seen the back of me."

He said his work was also disrupted due to the delay: "I was unable to do work for the period I was travelling – my boss was incredibly understanding and I work from home. I work in education and I had to reschedule a lot of appointments after the Easter holidays.

"It's caused me quite a headache. "

A British Airways spokesperson said: "We're always sorry when a customer's journey is disrupted as we understand how frustrating it is. We always meet our legal obligations when we have to cancel a flight, and where we aren't able to immediately source hotel accommodation we ask customers to make their own arrangements and claim their expenses back from us via our website, ba.com. We’re in contact with our customer to help resolve the issues they’ve faced.

"When a customer's flight is cancelled we always offer options including rebooking or a refund."

According to British Airways, customers are entitled to claim expenses for, hotel accommodation (where necessary), meals and refreshments, transport between the hotel and the airport (where necessary), two telephone calls or internet-related costs to contact people outside the airport.

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