Saturday 19 August 2017

Irish passenger caught up in BA disruption: 'Police told us to go home because airline staff felt under attack'

People sleep next to their luggage at Heathrow Terminal 5 in London, Britain May 28, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall
People sleep next to their luggage at Heathrow Terminal 5 in London, Britain May 28, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall
People wait with their luggage at the British Airways check in desks at Heathrow Terminal 5 in London. REUTERS/Neil Hall
Handout photo taken with permission from the Twitter feed of @theboyg of queues at British Airways check in desks at Heathrow Airport: @theboyg/PA Wire
A man sleeps at Heathrow Terminal 5 in London, Britain May 28, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall
People sleep at Heathrow Terminal 5 in London, Britain May 28, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall

Sasha Brady

An Irish woman caught up in the British Airways IT crash in Heathrow Airport has said the situation is "out of control" as staff struggle to contain the crisis.

Grainne Hartnett (26) had arrived in Heathrow from Dublin on Saturday morning to board a connecting flight to Vancouver with British Airways (BA).

But when she landed in London she was greeted with chaotic scenes as a global computer failure caused all BA flights to be cancelled from Heathrow and Gatwick airports.

"There were thousands of people swarming around and not enough staff to deal with them," she told Independent.ie.

"I didn't understand what was going as I couldn't get to the desk.

"I managed to get hold of a staff member and they directed me to another area of the airport to wait and from there it was completely crazy."

Ms Harnett said that staff at the airport seem completely overwhelmed and unable to control the situation.

"When I arrived back at the airport this morning it was madness. All the staff were lined up trying to field questions but they were interrupted by disgruntled passengers shouting at them.

A woman sleeps on a luggage trolley at Heathrow Terminal 5 in London, Britain May 28, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A woman sleeps on a luggage trolley at Heathrow Terminal 5 in London, Britain May 28, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

"Then they all walked off and the ticket desk was closed. The police arrived shortly afterwards and told us all to leave.

"When we asked why no announcements were being made, they told us that staff felt in danger and under attack. They were worried the situation would escalate.

People sleep at Heathrow Terminal 5 in London, Britain May 28, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall
People sleep at Heathrow Terminal 5 in London, Britain May 28, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall

"It was complete chaos. Everyone was so distressed. One member of staff we spoke to said she'd never seen anything like it in 30 years of working with BA."

The disruption continued into a second day, with more than a third of BA flights from Heathrow cancelled on Sunday as the airline battled to contain the "knock-on disruption" to schedules. Passengers also faced hold-ups at Gatwick but no flights were cancelled.

People wait with their luggage at the British Airways check in desks at Heathrow Terminal 5 in London. REUTERS/Neil Hall
People wait with their luggage at the British Airways check in desks at Heathrow Terminal 5 in London. REUTERS/Neil Hall

It coincides with one of the busiest periods for travel in the UK, with a Bank Holiday and school term break falling on the same weekend.

The Telegraph reports that hotels surrounding the airports affected have been taking advantage of the crisis by charging extortionate prices between £1,000 to £2,500 a room for the night.

Ms Harnett stayed in a London hotel last night which she will be reimbursed for but she said that a lot of passengers couldn't afford to pay for accommodation upfront and had to spend the night in the airport.

"I managed to get a hotel for an average price but many passengers are completely stranded as some hotels have inflated their prices. When I left the airport today, some people were preparing for another night of sleeping in the departures lounge," she said.

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