British Airways has canceled dozens of flights Friday, blaming computer failures for disrupting plans for thousands of passengers at the start of a busy holiday weekend - a rocky kickoff to the summer travel season in Europe.
The technical glitches and strikes by airport staff across Europe are raising concerns about a repeat of last summer's post-pandemic air travel chaos that resulted in delays, cancellations and mountains of lost luggage from London to Sweden to Amsterdam.
Most of the affected flights in London were on short-haul routes to and from Heathrow, Europe's busiest airport. Computer issues on Thursday caused planes and crew to be out of position Friday, which was expected to be the busiest day for U.K. air travel since the pandemic.
Some passengers were delayed on other flights, making it difficult for them to check in online. Travel is anticipated to be especially busy over the next few days, as a three-day weekend coincides with the start of a weeklong holiday for most schools in Britain.
We re aware of a technical issue, which we have been working hard to fix, said British Airways IAG on its website.
The industry is looking to avoid a repeat of the disorder last year when airports and airlines struggled to keep up with demand that came roaring back after pandemic restrictions eased.
While some disruptions can be expected, the International Air Transport Association, or IATA, said this month that the ramping-up issues faced at some key hub airports in 2022 will have been resolved.
To meet demand, airlines have determined schedules based on the capacity that airports, border control, ground handlers, and air navigation service providers have declared. Over the next months, all industry players now need to deliver, the airline industry group said.
IATA warns that strikes, including those by airport staff such as air traffic controllers, are cause for concern, particularly in places like France. The French labor action by French workers battling the government over pension reforms has resulted in as many as 30% of flights canceled at the second busiest airport, Orly, on some days.
In Britain, Heathrow security guards launched a three-day strike Thursday on pay after walking off their jobs over busy periods earlier this year, including Easter.
The strikes have been an issue, but mitigation measures that have been implemented have meant that in the vast majority of cases, people have been able to travel from the U.K. as expected, and we expect the same to be the case in the summer months, said Julia Lo Bue-Said, CEO of Advantage Travel PartnershipTravel Partnership.
The industry is made of many moving parts and navigating some of the issues outside of our control at exceptionally busy periods does put increased pressure on the entire ecosystem, she said.