Liz Hurley was among hundreds of British Airways customers stranded at airports and on runways for hours as Christmas flights were hit by a computer glitch.
The British flag carrier was forced to apologize for the cancellation of dozens of flights to and from America, 15 of which were due to leave Heathrow on Tuesday.
Actress and model Ms Hurley was among those caught up in the chaos, lamenting 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 scheduling software provided by German carrier Lufthansa, which was blamed for the chaos.
The airline uses Lufthansa’s Lido system, which allows pilots to plot routes and navigate in bad weather.
Lido is popular with a number of other airlines, including the German airline itself and BA’s sister airlines such as Iberia and Vueling, as well as rival Virgin Atlantic. Other airlines would not have been affected in the same way.
BA said the computer issues were resolved shortly after 8 a.m. Tuesday morning.
More than 30 flights between North America and the Caribbean have been canceled or halted overnight, leaving thousands of customers in a race to get a different flight in time for Christmas.
Lufthansa said it was helping BA determine the root cause of the computer problem.
Claire Turvey, a London-based public relations officer returning from Boston, said her flight was stuck on the airport tarmac for three and a half hours.
She said: “[I] I’ve been on the phone with British Airways for two hours and no one can help you! No idea what I’m supposed to do. It’s a mess.
It was unclear whether the delay to Ms Hurley’s flight was a direct result of the computer glitch or whether a separate problem had been exacerbated by it.
She said: “Still blocked – no food, water or hotel. Pretty dodgy service.”
Later she wrote:
This isn’t the first technical issue to hit BA in recent years.
In 2020, the company was fined £20m by the Information Commissioner’s Office for a data breach in 2018 in which the personal data of 400,000 customers was accessed by hackers .
BA was also repeatedly rocked by systems failures that grounded flights for hours.
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 be no repeat of the chaos, only for similar issues to arise less than two years later.
A British Airways spokesman said the airline was rebooking customers affected by Tuesday’s disruption on alternative flights and providing customers with refreshments as well as accommodation if needed.
The spokesperson added: “Our teams have now resolved a temporary issue that affected some of our long-haul flight planning systems overnight, which caused delays to our schedule.
“We are sorry for the disruption caused to our customers’ travel plans.”