Don’t Let Systems Outages Ruin Your Trip

Late last night/early this morning, British Airways suffered yet another computer outage, which marks approximately the 473rd in the past six months. Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. It was the sixth in the last year and lasted under an hour, as opposed to the failure that took the airline down in May, but it was still enough to cause mayhem for the airline and its passengers. And if you don’t think that you could someday be the victim of an outage, you’ve never used a computer. There’s not always a lot you can do at the time, but here are a few ideas to help you stay ahead.

Before The Outage

Even the airport knows.                                                               Photo Credit: Creative Commons

Obviously, you’ll never know in advance when an outage will occur, so you should count on the preparation that you take before the flight.* If you get lucky, you’ll still be at home when the computers go down and can sit in your living room and wait on hold.

At The Airport

It could be worse. You could be here.

Few people get lucky, of course, meaning that you’ll most likely be at the airport when the world goes dark. The first thing that everyone will do is rush to the nearest agent. Sadly, those agents will be overwhelmed and have their hands full calling other airlines and trying to re-book passengers. A member of your party should wait in line, just in case, but keep in mind that it could be next Tuesday before they get to the front. In the meantime:

  • Your first step should be your airline’s airport lounge, if one exists. Lounges are a good thing on a normal day. When things go wrong, they’re a lifeline to the best agents in the system. If you don’t have access, you may be able to buy a day pass. It’ll be worth every penny of the $50 or so that you will pay.
  • Call your airline’s 800 number. It should be speed-dialed into your phone so you don’t have to take time to look it up. If the power is down across the system, the phone lines will be jammed, as well, but you might as well have a second outlet.
  • Call the credit card company where you booked your flight. You may have travel interruption insurance, although it could just give you a refund. It may not buy you a new ticket on another airline.
  • Wild card: social media. If you have Twitter access, you can DM the airline, but they’re likely tied up with other customers. Still, it can’t hurt.
  • Know your rights, especially if you are dealing with a European carrier. You might be entitled to some cash.
  • Settle in and get comfortable. It could be a while.

The Bottom Line

Airlines spend a small fortune on their systems and back-ups, but computers happen. The best that you can do is prepare ahead of time, take whatever steps you can and hope that it gets fixed quickly.


*Beginner’s Hint: You do take five minutes to prepare before your flight, right? If not, it’s time to start. You spent a fortune on the ticket, so protect your investment. Here’s what you need to do: Verify what you can ahead of time and check with the airline ahead of time to make sure your flight is on time. Pack plenty of extra snacks, games for kids, empty water bottles, etc., just in case. Most importantly, look for alternative flights, both on your airline and on others, in case yours is cancelled. 

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