By Cate McCurry, PA
Aer Lingus has received 6,500 compensation applications from customers affected by last month’s IT problem that led to the cancellation of 51 flights.
More than 30,000 Aer Lingus passengers were impacted by the disruption, that was sparked by an “exceptional set of circumstances”.
The airline was forced to cancel dozens of flights between Dublin airport and other European destinations after its check-in and boarding services were severely disrupted.
Senior representatives from Aer Lingus appeared before the Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications.
Lynne Embleton, chief executive of Aer Lingus said that for almost ten hours, they had no access to their operational and customer system.
“This meant we couldn’t check-in, we couldn’t board customers, we couldn’t get access to flight information or customer bookings data or customer data information,” Ms Embleton said.
“We had limited ability to communicate with our customers and ability to provide information.”
Donal Moriarty, chief corporate affairs officer, said that its cloud-based system is located in the UK.
“The outage was truly an exceptional set of circumstances,” Mr Moriarty told the committee.
“The first line, the fibre optic line, was broken due to construction work at a site in the UK and that took down the primary line.
“The secondary line, which is the backup, also failed due to an entirely unrelated issue of a failure of backup card.
“That was a truly extraordinary event for that to happen.
“In addressing the issue, that backup card has been replaced and there is a new monitoring system in place to ensure what happened can’t happen again.
“It’s extremely unlikely that the sequences of events that happened on September 10 will happen again.
“We are looking at bringing in additional redundancy to protect systems by having a second fail over to provide additional security.”
The incident, which left hundreds of passengers stranded outside Dublin Airport, was described as a PR disaster by independent TD Michael Lowry.
He said the failure of the backup system was not acceptable.
“I would have thought that a company of your size with such reliance on technology, you would be insisting on a multi-layered backup to ensure it does not happen,” Mr Lowry added.
He said he was “gobsmacked” by the amount of people outside the airport, and described the handling of the incident as a “shambles”.
Ms Embleton said it should not have happened.
Mr Moriarty said the airline is in discussions with the supplier over the outage, but said there are “constraints” on what he can publicly say.
Susanne Carberry, chief customer officer, said about 700 people are awaiting to be refunded.
“To date we have received about 6,500 compensation applications from customers and have successfully (processed) over 91% of them today,” Ms Carberry said.
“Some of these passengers may still be coming so we may have to add to that list.
“But the ones currently waiting, we have communicated with them to say we will have all these applications processed by the end of this month.”
Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley said he “doesn’t buy” that main server and its backup failed.
“I would have thought there would have been testing of the backup service to ensure it was fit for purpose so if the other system went down, it was there,” he added.
Mr Moriarty said the issues have been fully dealt with and “should not happen again”.
Around 30,000 passengers were affected by the delays. Of those 20,000 people were on delayed flights, with some 10,000 people booked on to cancelled flights.