back to article As you stare at the dead British Airways website, remember the hundreds of tech staff it laid off

The ba.com and britishairways.com websites and online check-in system for British Airways have been down for the past seven hours or so. The UK's major airline says it has people "at work" fixing the cockup, but as of 1800 GMT no resolution is in sight and BA has not provided an explanation beyond "technical issues." A trip to …

Its now 7pm and still not up. Oops. !!!!

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I realise it's simplistic but....

Maybe we should all pay a few quid more for flights and keep people employed.

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Re: I realise it's simplistic but....

And what on earth makes you think they would actually pay for the staff they need?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I realise it's simplistic but....

Yeah they made three billion euros last year, they can do one.

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FAIL

Re: I realise it's simplistic but....

Perhaps they were all stuck in their seats needing to go to the loo and, well nature took its course? Then the lights went off due to the 'damp problem'?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I realise it's simplistic but....

It's a nice idea but I'm thinking you don't understand how the world of business works,

I sell dogs (I love a good dog analogy but I'm actually more of a cat person though I've had dogs all my life as well)

I employ 30 people to help with selling the dogs and running the business but it would appear I can get rid of 10 of them and increase my profits by outsourcing their roles.

Instantly I have stated my intentions and that is to make as much money as I can from dogs.

Something goes wrong with the outsourced part of business and there is now shit all over the lawn.

I can't get the original people back and just put up with the sub-standard lawn shit clearing ability of my out sourced team. It doesn't affect me personally because it's not my lawn and quite frankly I don't care.

I'm not going to change anything because my sub-standard lawn shit cleaning team are still cheaper.

Sure, feel free to pay more for the dogs but the lawn is still going to have the same amount of shit on it regardless, you are just giving me and my share holders money for free because if I can pay less for something even if it's not as good then I will. I'm still careful though not to cross the imaginary line that would hit sales, shit on the lawn for a few hours rather than a few minutes is acceptable for me.

The customer should never have to clean the shit off the lawn.

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Re: I realise it's simplistic but....

I'm not sure if this deranged ramblings or insightful genius. Bravo Sir either way!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I realise it's simplistic but....

"Something goes wrong with the outsourced part of business and there is now shit all over the lawn."

It might not be the dogs.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I realise it's simplistic but....

Maybe we should all pay a few quid more for flights and keep people employed.

They will go to increase the bonus of the person who was so stupid that he did not realize that the new LHR runway will run over his office and he will be paying for demolition, relocation and expansion all in one.

It will not go for more IT staff. As far as him and other similar golfogarchs are concerned is a "cost centre" - it is to be cut.

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Re: I realise it's simplistic but....

Just send all the dogs to India. (There is shit all over the place there (human faeces) due to the lack of toilets and sewage systems.)

Out of sight, out of mind.

Someone elses problem

But the ed result is

Problem solved.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I realise it's simplistic but....

Maybe we should all pay a few quid more for flights and keep people employed.

The only way you will change anything by paying more money is if you use that to fly with another company. That's what made Ryanair eventually go nice. They make a profit, but it's not a big one (and it's about to get even less now the oil prices are resuming their original level).

That said, with the site down it's not like you had any other choice - I hope the contractors they had to call in to fix it will charge them emergency rates.

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Re: I realise it's simplistic but....

It's not "a few more quid" you'd be paying, but a LOT more Euros. Or, in old money: pesetas. Because British Airways is about as British as paella. Same way that energy supplier Scottish Power is anything but an outstanding regional enterprise, rather an outfit with the worst customer service record of any large company in the UK.

Spanish Airways and Spanish Power are infused with an identical corporate culture, which is to slash costs, treat customers with contempt, and in the event of formal or informal censure, issue a grovelling apology then set off and do the same thing all over again. And again.

Spanish Power's most noticeable tactic has been to 'adopt' a leading charity, shove some money into it, and then run full page newspaper ads extolling its nobility. I now await a similar advertising campaign from Spanish Airways.

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Re: I realise it's simplistic but....

So BA can't afford the tech crew to maintain and support systems, but they can afford a PR crew to manage the message.

Where's a 'B' Ark when you need one.

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Re: I realise it's simplistic but....

Barking mad.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I realise it's simplistic but....

I think you made a linear assumption too far.

It's an idea to exchange cost for quality. The amount may be more than that but it is still a feasible business approach.

Let's re-use your example. I sell dogs and I employ 30 people to help with selling the dogs while running the business.

Instead of getting rid of 10 of them, I utilize those 10 to increase our dog qualities with a mix of research and marketing. I present our dogs as happier dogs with some early training to improve customers initial impression. It ultimately increased the cost, the quality, and satisfied customers.

Think of this like a 5-star hotel vs a 3-star hotel. It doesn't work for all cases just like the case you noted where you have already aiming for the lower cost in exchange for quality.

However if you have an iPhone, it pretty much shows that some customers prefer a device with some quality engineers, rather than an unknown cheap China android phone with no engineer and 30% more likely to explode when charging.

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Re: I realise it's simplistic but....

I'll throw in my own dog analogy too.

I sell dogs. I have 30 staff. I then learn of cheaper dog handling talent in India and decide to cost-save and dismiss all but 3 staff to hire 27 cheap Indian dog handlers, knowing full well that GOOD dog handlers in India don't stay there, but get enough skills to move to the developed NA/European/Australasian countries where they get better wages...

... so I have my 27 graduate or incompetent dog handlers who can't get better jobs, but they're much cheaper than my original 27 staff. After a year or so of operation, one of my three remaining staff is doing quality checks and spots that the Indian dog handlers are breading in genetic defects into my stock as they don't fully understand the dogs! A process, which on further investigation has occurred repeatedly over generations, resulting in higher dead and returned puppies.

What do I do? I decide that dogs just aren't for me, and shut down my dog breeding program, as I'm sure my other cat and bird breeding programs won't suffer this same issue with their Indian handlers.

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Headmaster

Re: I realise it's simplistic but....

Re:ProperDave

"the Indian dog handlers are breading in genetic defects into my stock"

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corn_dog

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Coat

You are obviously running a puppy farm

With a staff of 30 you must be selling a hell of a lot of dogs, so you're obviously running a puppy farm.

A lot of people get upset by puppy farms. I've never understood why. Surely it's better for Korean restaurants to buy their meat from a farm than to steal people's pets off the street.

Mine's the one that somebody has inexplicably put dog shit in the pocket of.

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Re: I realise it's simplistic but....

- they would simply employ more marketing people

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Silver badge

Re: I realise it's simplistic but....

I'm waiting for British Airways to officially become just BA so it can lose that tedious 'British' bit - the same way that British Petroleum became plain old BP and British Telecom metamorphosed into BT.

That way they can get rid of all their expensive British workforce, headquarter somewhere sunny that just happens to have low taxes and rake in even more money for selling a third-rate service as a premium product.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I realise it's simplistic but....

"It might not be the dogs"

I may not have implicitly implicated the dogs but they were under the control of the outsourcing team at the time and they managed to cover the lawn with shit. It may have been avoided if they knew how shit worked,

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Re: I realise it's simplistic but....

"Where's a 'B' Ark when you need one."

It's on the tarmac but BA can't take bookings for it. The website's down.

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Re: You are obviously running a puppy farm

In the US its called a puppy mill. We are trying to eliminate them but pesky state rules get involved.

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Coat

Re: I realise it's simplistic but....

I don't understand the analogy. You start talking about dogs and halfway through there's shit on the lawn. I didn't catch when you switched from running a dog business to a telecoms business.

It does seem that there needs to be a way to convince business to play the long game, instead of seeing what kind of bonus they can make this week.

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Re: I realise it's simplistic but....

we do all pay a few quid more, have you seen the fricken prices? we are not all doing Ryan air jumble sale flights.

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Everybody is out there trying to pull doctors off planes.

Oh, silly me, this isn't the USA!

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Just you wait...

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But Ryanair will make a profit from it

Just you wait, in a few month's time Ryanair will have a option to not be chosen to be deplaned if they overbooked the flight. Its perfect, they'll make money from both ends! They can overbook more than other airlines by saying that anybody who didn't take the option knew and accepted that they could be ejected. And they make more money by upselling when you by the ticket.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: But Ryanair will make a profit from it

Weirdly, Ryanair has apparently stopped with overbooking. They even have numbered seating now..

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Pint

Correlation is not causation

People being axed does not mean this would be avoided. That's speculation, at best. Good effort at making a news story without any information to go on, though.

Sorry situation for BA, though I've no tears to shed for them. They have a terrible business model where they're trying to emulate low cost carriers (LCC's) such as Ryanair while having the much higher cost structure of a legacy. They've made some efforts at bringing that down, but it's a shit strategy that eventually leads to bargain basement prices instead of quality product. One day, I predict they'll die a miserable death in the form of a takeover by Ryanair or other LCC after failing to pivot the business.

Cheers for cheaper flights!

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Re: Correlation is not causation

People being axed does not mean this would be avoided. That's speculation, at best. Good effort at making a news story without any information to go on, though.

You're right of course, but if one were a betting man... If it's some mega hardware fail, I'd like to see that being fixed from afar.

Sorry situation for BA, though I've no tears to shed for them. They have a terrible business model where they're trying to emulate low cost carriers (LCC's) such as Ryanair while having the much higher cost structure of a legacy. They've made some efforts at bringing that down, but it's a shit strategy that eventually leads to bargain basement prices instead of quality product. One day, I predict they'll die a miserable death in the form of a takeover by Ryanair or other LCC after failing to pivot the business.

Yep, quality will sell, but only if someone offers it. Unfortunately the market for a quality product is much smaller than the market for a cheap, low cost market, so guess which market everyone bundles in for.

It takes a small, niche player who doesn't fundamentally care about growth, market share, or being taken over, but is quite prepared to offer a slightly more expensive product and make a modest profit reliably over a very long period of time.

Such an outfit isn't going to be owned by shareholders...

The only way that a minimum quality can be guaranteed is multinational government intervention on matters such as passenger space, etc, to set a lower limit on how bad things can get.

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Stop

Re: Correlation is not causation

It's a jolly strong cause though.

"Our IT systems worked yesterday, and so shall they work today, tomorrow, and forever. Onwards, cost cutters, there is baggage to be trimmed!"

"What do you mean, they were actively maintaining the system, preserving life? Oh sod."

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I share your concern

I never minded the budget carriers - they were cheap and I could accept a lot from them as their way of justifying the price. I also actually actively liked some edicts like "You're late, we're taking off, and I don't care if we leave you behind".

I've never liked flying. It's better sitting at the front and more pleasant in the lounge, but aside from a holiday I'm only there as my employer is making me and I would ALWAYS prefer to be at home.

My requirements are basic. I would like to get on, be comfortable and ideally spend as much time as possible asleep. The point of the comfort to enable me to sleep. My dining requirements being enough G&Ts to enable me to overcome the discomfort - to allow me to sleep.

BA are currently retrofitting their planes to offer less leg-room than Ryanair.

Currently I have to chuck the magazines on the floor simply to get that f'in bar at the top of the seat pocket to not grind into my shin. I have to endure the (*&£er infront of me wondering why their seat won't recline (my legs) - and should I get an aisle seat, allowing me to get an extra inch by allowing my feet to go into the aisle the sodding cart being rammed into them.

Oh, and don't start me on the "enhanced entertainment system" which is a metal box welded under the seat infront...

..alright, I've gone off topic here.

Scum class in BA is vile and angers me. Ryanair tell me the hate me, but at least let me buy enough drinks, don't have the pocket, the entertainment box and..

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Re: I share your concern

"Scum class in BA is vile and angers me"

I haven't flown BA in 20 years. Back then it was surly service, threadbare seats and microwave dinners for inflight catering. In retrospect it was emblematic of England at the time. I see that they have gone downhill from there...

These days I quite enjoy flying for work. That's mostly because I won't do it unless they send me business class. On most airlines you get wider seats and plenty of leg room plus a complimentary drink and can blag a second if you ask nicely. I've actually had a Singapore steward cover me with a blanket and tuck me in after falling asleep like they do in the ads.

What, you won't spring for a seat up the front of the plane? Then its clearly not important that I go.

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Re: Correlation is not causation

"People being axed does not mean this would be avoided. That's speculation, at best. Good effort at making a news story without any information to go on, though."

On the other hand, we've had previous stories of banking systems being upgraded remotely from Indian outsourcers going pear-shaped because they didn't know the systems as well as the long-experinced, now redundant locals. The odds are pretty good that if and when the real story leaks, it will be something similar, especially since the out-sourcers have only a few months of "live" experience with what is almost certainly a similar situation, ie multiple, incompatible legacy system all joined together with some fairly effective bodges but needing an experienced hand at the controls.

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Re: Correlation is not causation

It was a screwed database upgrade. I would charge this DIRECTLY to the quality of the remaining team.

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Re: Correlation is not causation

There's nothing like proper testing on the dummy system before major system upgrades. And this was nothing like proper testing.

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Re: Correlation is not causation

"the long-experienced, now allegedly redundant locals."

FTFY

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Re: Correlation is not causation

Seriously?

In the general case yes; correlation is not causation, and yes; there's probably no causal link between internet explorer market share and murder rates, or between Autism diagnoses and organic food sold, even though the graphs show a correlation.

This however was a database upgrade causing several hours outage, so I'm sorry, but without information to the contrary the most likely cause is an error by one of the people involved. That the people involved were changed out a few months back, then that's a little beyond correlation.

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Re: Correlation is not causation

We can confidently expect more of this as the number of bits of active code running, on "the system" continues to grow exponentially. Microsoft's plan to hoover apps and data has the appearance of a last ditch effort to cure the incurable. Some years ago, in an effort to sell the notion that "information superiority" would so awe a numerically superior enemy that that they would surrender without a shot, the US Department of Defense came up with the catch-phrase, "The network is the system."

The US have since learned and adapted to the reality that it is the nature of cornered animals, including us, to bite. But the slogan had it right.

The network is the system. And anything attached to it, including our new toaster oven, is part of it. The size and configuration of this system is indeterminate, and--as a practical matter--indeterminable.

Every device, every component, every bit of code, and every user, human or automaton, is part of a vast, complex, dynamic, non-linear system.

"But wait," the IT geeks cry, "it's DIGITAL; that's not non-linear."

But it is. Network queueing theory tells us so. As does the fact that my Windows workstation regularly spikes to 100% Disc Usage, for no single discernible reason that anyone has been able to pin down that I'm aware of. Something to do with Skype, Chrome, your disc driver. . . (Then there all those ROHM'd transistors merrily sprouting tin whiskers.)

The responses are all quintessentially non-linear.

The history of computing, from Jacquard's one operation/second loom in 1806 to today's petaFLOP computers internetworked with literally millions of computational devices capable of giga- and teraFLOPs leads us to believe that there are no limits.

It ain't necessarily so. The network is the system. Everyone hooked to it--including the connected cyberterrorist--are insiders.

My perspective is admittedly biased by fond memories of programming computers the size of refrigerators by punching binary indicator light/switches on the font panel. Between then and now I've seen inconceivable changes. The problem is that those changes have evolved at inconceivable rates, with results that were unimaginable when the critical design decisions were being made. Those include radical changes to the "cyber-ecology" in which the internetworked system lives.

All my experiences and observations persuade me that the flaws and failures reported in el Reg are symptoms of a more serious, potentially catastrophic condition. At this point, "Security First!" is just a marketing slogan. The IT community needs to give serious consideration to the possibility that the current design is not equipped to survive in the environment it created.

We need to go back to first principles and ask what a system designed for security first in today's (and tomorrow's) cyber-ecology needs to look like. I suspect the answer will not look anything like what we have.

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Headmaster

Re: Correlation is not causation

@Christoph: "There's nothing like proper testing..."

Correct.

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Re: Correlation is not causation

"The only way that a minimum quality can be guaranteed is multinational government intervention on matters such as passenger space, etc, to set a lower limit on how bad things can get."

Perhaps governments can support an education that'll produce more "Dog expertise" instead of the crap passing for *skills known as "marketing ".... not that we'd want air travel to turn into a system of "public transit"... ahem.

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Re: I share your concern

I miss the silver service we used to get on BOAC *sigh*...

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Re: Correlation is not causation

Wouldn't 'post hoc, ergo propter hoc' be a more accurate reflection of the situation?

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And it's back up it seems.

Just tried ba.com and wham.

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Coat

Re: And it's back up it seems.

I hope you liked the wham. I'm not a big fan myself. Too 80's.

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Re: And it's back up it seems.

wake me up when the web site go go. Ok I'm leaving

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Re: And it's back up it seems.

No, no, no. Wham! Make It Big is the album that George and Andy earned the exclamation point.

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Go

The solution? Start with more outsourcing...

Outsource the job of the exec who championed IT outsourcing to India for starters. Then proceed to outsource the finance types who did the cost justification and internal rate of return on the IT outsourcing.

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Re: The solution? Start with more outsourcing...

Nice idea but stockholders are the problem. They want their money and cutting the top paying jobs would be welcomed.

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