Liz Hurley among hundreds of British Airways customers hit by IT chaos

liz hurley Qatar Goodwood Festival - Matt Alexander/PA
liz hurley Qatar Goodwood Festival - Matt Alexander/PA

Liz Hurley was among hundreds of British Airways customers stranded in airports and on runways for hours as Christmas flights were hit by an IT glitch.

The UK flag carrier was forced to apologise for cancelling dozens of flights to and from America, including 15 scheduled to leave Heathrow on Tuesday.

Actress and model Ms Hurley was among those caught up in the chaos, bemoaning a 20-hour delay that left her without food or water on the Caribbean island of Antigua.

As the airline scrambled to clear the backlog, BA launched an urgent investigation into pilot planning software provided by the German carrier Lufthansa, which was blamed for the chaos.

The airline uses Lufthansa’s Lido system, which allows pilots to plot routes and navigate inclement weather.

Lido is popular among a number of other airlines including the German flag carrier itself and BA sister airlines such as Iberia and Vueling, as well as rival Virgin Atlantic. Other airlines are understood to have not been similarly affected.

BA said the IT problems had been resolved shortly after 8am on Tuesday morning.

More than 30 flights between North America and the Caribbean were either cancelled or disrupted overnight - leaving thousands of customers in a race to secure a different flight in time for Christmas. 

Lufthansa said it was helping BA to ascertain the root cause of the IT glitch.

Claire Turvey, a London-based public relations executive returning home from Boston said her flight was stuck on the tarmac at the airport for three-and-a-half hours.

She said: “[I] have been on the phone to British Airways for two hours and no one can help! No idea what I’m supposed to do. It’s a shambles.”

It was unclear whether the delay to Ms Hurley’s flight was a direct result of the IT glitch, or if a separate problem had been exacerbated by it.

She said: "Still stranded - no food, water or hotel. Pretty dodgy service."

Later, she wrote:

This is not the first technical issue to hit BA in the past few years.

In 2020, the company was fined £20m by the Information Commissioner's Office over a 2018 data breach in which the personal details of 400,000 customers were accessed by hackers.

BA has also repeatedly been rocked by systems outages that have grounded flights for hours on end.

The worst in recent memory occurred in May 2017 when a massive computer system failure left 75,000 customers stranded.

Then-boss Alex Cruz vowed there would not be a repeat of the chaos, only for similar problems to strike less than two years later.

A spokesman for British Airways said the airline was rebooking customers affected by Tuesday's disruption onto alternative flights, and providing customers with refreshments as well as accommodation where needed.

The spokesman added: "Our teams have now resolved a temporary issue that affected some of our long-haul flight planning systems overnight, which resulted in delays to our schedule.

"We're sorry for the disruption caused to our customers' travel plans."