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What You Can Learn From British Airways's IT Meltdown That Left Passengers Stranded

Invest in systems you need and keep your customers informed.


British Airways had a rough weekend.

Bloomberg | Getty Images

Due to a power surge early Saturday morning and a backup that failed to work, the airline's computer systems broke down. The crash prompted British Airways to cancel all departing flights from Heathrow and Gatwick airports, effectively stranding 75,000 people. And once the passengers arrived at their destinations, there was no guarantee that their luggage would be waiting for them.

It was a chaotic and ultimately expensive mishap for British Airways. The market value of IAG, the airline's parent company, dropped by about $643,550,000. Not only that, but The Guardian reports that customers inconvenienced by the IT issues had to pay up to $2,059 in additional travel costs, leaving the company with a hefty compensation $192 million compensation bill.

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If you're sleeping on the floor of an airport terminal, of course you aren't going to have a ton of understanding for the organization that put you in that position. But it wasn't just disgruntled passengers -- the response from rival airline, Ireland's was particularly merciless.

A peek into the company's Tweets & Replies tab on Twitter shows a raft of messages with a heavy use of the words "sorry" and "apologise." CEO Alex Cruz also made a video apology.

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"We absolutely, profusely apologize for these events," Cruz said. "We are absolutely committed to making sure that we fulfill our obligations, particularly from a passenger compensation point of view. … We are now focusing on making sure that everyone's needs are addressed. We will make an in-depth investigation to make sure we get to the bottom of exactly why this happened and we will react. This will not happen again at British Airways."

Cruz is saying all the right things, and it would seem that his team is working tirelessly to make sure that each customer is taken care of. But what the experience of British Airways teaches us is that we need to think carefully about where resources can best be utilized. Think about the systems and structures that you can't do without and always make sure that they are up to date. If you can have the most current , an investment now could save you a major headache later.

Better that the glitch never happened at all -- but if your company is faced with a snafu of this magnitude, the best move is to be honest, admit what went wrong and keep your customers informed.

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