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Why passengers should think twice before flying with British Airways this summer

British Airways cancelled 4,033 flights from UK airports in the last twelve months, equating to 2.3 per cent of the industry's total.
British Airways cancelled 4,033 flights from UK airports in the last twelve months, equating to 2.3 per cent of the industry's total.

Passengers may need to think twice before flying with British Airways (BA) this summer.

The United Kingdom’s flag carrier airline, which has its home base at London Heathrow, cancelled 4,033 flights from UK airports in the last twelve months, equating to 2.3 per cent of its total flights from the country.

The figures from consultancy Cirium, first reported by the Financial Times, are nearly double that of Easyjet and are significantly higher than the industry average of 1.4 per cent.

They come despite the IAG, the airline conglomerate that includes British Airways among its ranks, posting a record £2.3bn annual profit last year on soaring travel demand.

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Shares in the airline group are up over 10 per cent year to date.

So what’s going wrong? Britain’s national carrier has been plagued by a number of issues over the last few years, including ageing technology and issues at Heathrow, which is running at full capacity.

A technical glitch caused chaos at Heathrow in June as passengers were left stranded and facing hours of delay. It was just the latest in a string of IT failures that have left chief executive Sean Doyle “fed up and frustrated”

The Times reported in December that bosses had identified over 600 areas where the airline could improve after many years of decline.

It is now planning a £7bn investment, the biggest in its history, to revamp struggling IT systems and invest in improving passenger experience through lounge, food and seating upgrades. Some £750m will be set aside for IT infrastructure, with the airline planning to move its 700 systems to the cloud next year.

British Airways is by no means the only airline in the UK to struggle this year. The aviation sector faced huge disruption in 2022 when staff shortages caused chaos in the post-Covid ramp-up.

Then, last year, a technical glitch at the UK’s National Air Traffic Service (NATs) grounded thousands of flights.

According to Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) data, Wizz Air was revealed as the least punctual airline earlier in June, although BA still finished poorly, tenth overall.

Granted, many of the issues are outside of its control, such as adverse weather in Europe and French air traffic control strikes.

But most aviation experts see the carrier as a long way from its glory days in the early 2000s when it was named the best airline in the world at the Skytrax World Airline awards.

It finished 13th this year, an improvement on last year’s 18th.

And other problems, as yet unresolved, could conspire to trip up the improvement.

BA’s main hub has always been London’s Heathrow Airport, which is both a strength and a weakness. The airport is one of Europe’s busiest, which is great for passenger traffic, but it makes it more difficult to tame chaos when an IT-related snafu occurs.

Supply chain issues at plane makers Boeing and Airbus, both suppliers of BA, have also complicated aircraft maintenance and orders over the last year. Those issues are set to continue for at least the next 12 months.

A British Airways spokesperson said: “We are embarking on an exciting period of transformation, with the largest investment in modernisation in our history. We’re investing £7bn across our business, with more than 600 initiatives being rolled out over the next three years to improve the customer experience.”