British Airways’ outage, like most data center outages, was caused by humans

An IT outage on May 27 that caused British Airways (BA) to cancel more than 400 flights and strand 75,000 passengers in one day was because of human error—and a simple one at that.

An engineer had disconnected a power supply at a data center near London’s Heathrow airport, and when it was reconnected, it caused a surge of power that resulted in major damage, according to Willie Walsh, CEO of BA’s parent company IAG SA. Walsh made the comment to reporters in Mexico, and it was picked up by Bloomberg and other news outlets.

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The engineer in question had been authorized to be on site and was part of a team working at the Heathrow data center hit by the power outage. The facility is managed by CBRE Works Solutions, a U.S. property services company.

A BA spokesperson told the U.K. publication IT PRO, “There was a loss of power to the U.K. data center, which was compounded by the uncontrolled return of power, which caused a power surge taking out our IT systems. So we know what happened; we just need to find out why. It was not an IT failure and had nothing to do with outsourcing of IT; it was an electrical power supply which was interrupted.”

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