British Airways flight schedules were returning to normal yesterday after a computer outage coincided with protests that closed a London airport – a combination that spelled lengthy delays for air passengers in Britain and around the world.
Campaigners against the shooting of unarmed black people by white police officers in the US forced their way onto the runway of London City Airport, halting flights for six hours.
Meanwhile, a computer glitch closed the British Airways check-in system. Britain’s Daily Telegraph blamed “issues with a new check-in system BA introduced that handles all aspects of arriving for a flight, including checking of visas and passport and baggage handling”.
British Airways said it was taking longer than normal to process customers at Heathrow and Gatwick. The problem quickly worsened, with major delays hitting BA in San Francisco, Washington DC and Atlanta. Travellers were complaining of long queues at airports including Gatwick, Edinburgh, Heathrow, Helsinki, Chicago, Seattle, Toronto and Mexico City.
In what seems an unfortunate coincidence, nine protesters from the campaign group Black Lives Matter locked themselves together on the runway of London City Airport at about the same time.
Last month, 10 protestors from Black Lives Matter were arrested after blocking the main road to London Heathrow Airport. The group carried out similar protests in Birmingham, Nottingham and Manchester while chanting “hands up, don’t shoot” at police. The group’s American slogan may have puzzled Britain’s unarmed police.
Black Lives Matter started in the US as a reaction to shootings of black people there. Although British police do not routinely carry guns, “black people in Britain are 28% more likely to be exposed to air pollution than their white counterparts” the group said in a statement.
“We know that environmental inequality is a racist crisis,” it added.
BA issued its own statement: “Check-in may take a bit longer than usual, so we would encourage customers to check in online before they reach the airport. We are sorry for the delay to our customers’ journeys.”
Written by Peter Needham