Half-term holiday plans for thousands of families have been thrown into disarray after British Airways’ flight cancellations due to an IT failure reached 175.
Most of the affected flights were on short-haul routes to and from Heathrow Airport.
British Airways said the “technical issue” was resolved on Thursday night, but disruption continued into Friday because of aircraft and crew being out of position.
Friday was expected to see the most departures from UK airports since December 20 2019, with more than 3,000 flights planned.
This is due to the combination of many families heading overseas ahead of the half-term school holiday in England and Wales, and Monday being a bank holiday.
Aviation analytics company Cirium said 83 British Airways flights due to operate on Friday were cancelled, in addition to 92 flights on Thursday.
That means more than 20,000 passengers’ journeys were axed.
There were also widespread delays to other flights, and some passengers were unable to check in online.
A British Airways spokeswoman said: “While the vast majority of our flights continue to operate today, we have cancelled some of our short-haul flights from Heathrow due to the knock-on effect of a technical issue that we experienced yesterday.
“We’ve apologised to customers whose flights have been affected and offered them the option to rebook to an alternative flight with us or another carrier, or request a refund.”
The airline added that where possible cancellations have been focused on routes with several daily flights, enabling passengers to rebook at alternative times.
One British man described the situation as “absolutely shocking” as he and his wife missed out on seeing film composer Hans Zimmer perform in Berlin due to British Airways cancelling their flight.
Antony Knights, 44, said when issues with the Berlin flight were communicated, “Terminal 5 turned into absolute chaos and pretty much everybody was queuing to speak to the desk, and there were only two members of BA staff on it and zero announcements.
“There were only two members of staff manning the queue, which was probably around 100 metres long. There were people everywhere needing assistance.
“It was pretty disappointing and frustrating. Things happen from time to time but this is not the first time British Airways systems have impacted people.”
Meanwhile, an American man discovered at Heathrow his British Airways flight to Boston had been cancelled, causing his daughter with Down syndrome to miss the rehearsal dinner for a friend’s wedding.
Jim Wheaton, 66, said it was “pretty disappointing” that, due to the cancelled flight, “I don’t think she’s going to be able to get there tomorrow for the wedding either”.
Mr Wheaton eventually travelled with American Airlines without his baggage and said he had “no confidence (British Airways) were going to get this thing straight”.
Rory Boland, editor of consumer magazine Which? Travel, said: “The busy holiday season is only just beginning but already BA is breaking its promises to its customers that it would avoid a repeat of last year’s travel chaos, with thousands of passengers now finding themselves in holiday hell as a result of yet another IT disaster.
“Occurrences like this are becoming all too familiar.
“BA has a legal responsibility to refund or reroute any passenger caught up in the chaos, and travellers shouldn’t be shy about enforcing their rights.”
Heathrow said the problem was not related to a strike by security officers at Terminal 5.
British Airways has suffered a series of IT failures in recent years.
It was forced to cancel flights in the run-up to Christmas 2022 due to a problem with its systems.
Customers can receive refunds, rebook or if they have to stay overnight they will be offered meals and hotel accommodation.
Meanwhile, the Port of Dover was busy on Friday as thousands of people embark on cross-Channel ferry trips.
The Kent port said shortly after 1pm that “traffic is currently processing well”, with waiting times of one hour for coaches and “under one hour” for cars.
This comes after coach passengers at the Kent port suffered delays of several hours ahead of the Easter school holidays.
The RAC estimated that drivers across the UK will embark on 19.2 million leisure car trips between Friday and Monday as people make the most of the bank holiday weekend.
Transport data company Inrix warned that journeys on some stretches of the M25 will take up to three times longer than normal.
They include clockwise from Junction 23 for Hatfield to Junction 28 for Chelmsford, and anticlockwise towards the Dartford Crossing.
Long delays are also expected on the M5 in Somerset and the M6 in Cheshire and Greater Manchester.