Aer Lingus CEO Lynne Embleton has apologized to 32,000 customers affected by a “highly unusual” outage of their core operational and customer systems on September 10.
Over 60 flights have been canceled after a fibre-optic cable at a UK data center used by its internet service provider was damaged by construction workers – followed by the unrelated failure of ‘a backup card’.
“This should not have happened and is of a very exceptional nature,” Ms Embleton told the Oireachtas Joint Committee of Transport and Communications this afternoon.
“Both of these have now been fixed and this should prevent such an outage from ever happening again.”
Thousands of refunds and diversions have been processed following the outage, and the airline says it has received 7,500 compensation and refund requests.
It has processed about 91 percent of those, said Susanne Carberry, chief customer officer at the airline, and the remaining applications are expected to be processed by the end of the month.
Aer Lingus executives spoke to the Joint Committee last month about issues affecting the airline’s flight booking and check-in services.
21,000 passengers had flights delayed and 11,000 flights were canceled due to the September 10 cancellations, they said.
That day, the affected systems were unavailable for almost 10 hours, disrupting check-in, boarding and other critical functions and causing chaos for customers.
“The level of disruption was phenomenal,” Ms Embleton said, describing it as “a horrible day”.
The airline has “very limited ability to communicate with customers,” she said, and ground staff have to manually check in passengers.
Asked how Aer Lingus could reassure passengers that a similar failure would not happen again, Chief Corporate Affairs Officer Donal Moriarty said that a new monitoring system was in place, the failed backup card had been replaced and that after “a tertiary system” to provide additional resilience.
Aer Lingus has attended the committee on a number of occasions during the pandemic, including this July, to ask questions about operational challenges during the summer travel season.
Today MPs began questioning executives about the events of September 10, with independent TD Michael Lowry calling it “a PR disaster” and Fine Gael’s Joe Carey TD noting “another fine mess with which Aer Lingus has been linked”.
Answering other questions, Ms Embleton said the airline industry could fully recover by 2024, but added that airline ticket prices would inevitably rise due to rising fuel costs, exchange rates and other inflationary factors.
Fianna Fáil’s Cathal Crowe TD asked if Aer Lingus was recruiting at this time and if it would reopen its crew base at Shannon Airport.
The airline is recruiting pilots, adding new routes and aircraft and “is now back on a growth trajectory,” Ms Embleton said.
However, Mr Moriarty added: “We will not be thinking of reassembling or bringing back our cabin crew base at Shannon Airport.”
https://www.independent.ie/life/travel/travel-news/a-horrible-day-aer-lingus-ceo-apologises-for-it-failures-disrupting-32000-passengers-42043233.html ‘A terrible day’ – Aer Lingus CEO apologizes for IT outages disrupting 32,000 passengers