back to article British Airways' latest Total Inability To Support Upwardness of Planes* caused by Amadeus system outage

The British Airways IT system failure that caused the grounding of flights around the world yesterday was caused by an outage at third-party travel tech supplier Amadeus. Amadeus, a travel tech outsourcer best known for supplying flight booking software to low-cost airlines such as Easyjet, suffered an outage which meant BA's …

  1. Andrew Moore Silver badge

    Why???

    Surely a system as vital as this should have some form of redundant backup. Even if that backup is a wax tablet and an abacus...

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Why???

      Not for any other reason, but to ensure that the master functions correctly. Even if you run only a couple of flights per day through it that should be enough as a verifier.

      It is the classic example of the three BIGGEST problems with a typical outsourcing deal - no verification, no backup and no ongoing quality control.

      1. Giovani Tapini Silver badge

        Re: Why???

        didn't you know, verification, backup, and quality control are no longer an issue once something is outsourced. It becomes this mysterious thing called "vendors responsibility" which, like cloud services, makes them magically, reliable, stable, and of high quality.

        1. eamonn_gaffey

          Re: Why???

          ...and it comes at a "lower cost", at least in terms of pounds/dollars - undoubtedly a significant driver behind outsourcing this rather crucial system. Unfortunately you get what you pay for, and the exec leading the project, thus achieving his/her inflated bonus for that year, will have long departed.

        2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: Why???

          quality control are no longer an issue once something is outsourced

          Or, as we used to have to try to get through to Finance management: "just because you outsource risk doesn't mean it goes away - you just cease to be able to manage it"..

          1. Andytug

            Re: Why???

            That's similar too "you can only delegate actions, not responsibility", another one that seems to have gone by the wayside among higher management and politicians in particular.

      2. LucreLout Silver badge

        Re: Why???

        no verification, no backup and no ongoing quality control.

        <mba>Isn't that what The Cloud does?</mba>

    2. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: Why???

      You'd also think that a place as big as Heathrow would be able to have a secondary air traffic unit on the other side of the airfield that could be used if, say, a fire alarm went off in one of them.

    3. Frenchie Lad

      Re: Why???

      You must be joking! We only have a DR plan and I'm sure we have two complete days to recover. Customers , yeah we're B2B so we do not have to listen these wimps unable to storm the bar and drown their misssed meetings / shortened holidays. They should take their punishment like a man, We're sure they deserve to suffer for something they did.

      Oh, by the way we're still within our SLA's, BA wanted a low price and that equals a feeble SLA.

      Bottom line is you get what you pays for BA!

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Andrew

      Why? Money of course!

      It'll cost much more to maintain such a fallback system 24/7 than it is to deal with a hiccup like this, especially if you can sweet talk your way out of it with your contractor. It sounds bizarre but dozens of companies honestly follow this or similar strategies.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why???

      Air France has their staff compute load sheets manually once a month, to keep them trained and to keep them aware of what meaningful figures look like.

      It looks their bean counters forgot to cut this useless waste of time...

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Why???

        Air France has their staff compute load sheets manually once a month

        The fact that Air Chance does it isn't necessarily a recommendation..

        (Many years ago I worked at Galileo - which had just been set up as a direct competitor for Amadeus - one of the founding airlines of Galieo was BA. We got trained in TFP programming by BA at Houdslow where they were really quite proud of the Weight 'n Balance system called 'Babs'..)

    6. macjules Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Why???

      Well. Amadeus Flight Management started life as "hey can't we improve the Whiz Wheel?" It was built to be a "faster" (yeah, right) solution not just for pilots but more for baggage loaders.

      Having developed some software for Amadeus via one of their contractors I know what it is like to be working with someone in the US demanding "Is it done yet? Is it done yet?". They always seem to approve a handover date and then 1 week later knock 3 months off and scream about urgent delivery.

      TITSUP? I am not surprised at all. More a case of Total Instability of Transportation Software causes Unstable Planes.

    7. Beavis-101

      Re: Why???

      From what I recall; BA take the Amadeus information for its flights, process and then keep an internal copy. Mostly this is (was) to reduce costs as a query to Amadeus was deemed as too expensive, and so they use their own (nasty) Orders Data Processing (ODS) system. Worked on it for about six months, until again, to reduce costs (and quality) they sacked and replaced most of the BA UK workers.

      I'll expect this added to the delay as all the BA internal systems would have had to wait until ODS had processed the information after the Amadeus outage.

      Without doubt BA had the worst management I've experienced in twenty five years working in IT and the military.

  2. not.known@this.address Bronze badge

    There is a bit more to it than a few sums, and I think people would rather be late to their destination than Late as in "the Late DentArthurDent".

    They could, of course, go back to the old-fashioned way of doing the load calcs but (a) it would take longer, (b) people would need to remember how to do real mathematics instead of just typing in numbers and (c) people might realise automating everything might not be such a really good idea after all...

    1. Frenchie Lad

      There nothing in these calculations that a straightforward IOS app (Android if you prefer) can't handle. Jiust make sure you have the passenger numbers to start with. Its known as plan b.

      1. SkippyBing Silver badge

        Doing it manually was literally part of the CPL exams when I did them in 2012. I imagine the problem is who's liable if you get them wrong, as presumably BA don't have a procedure for it in their Ops Manual.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          In a previous life I had to implement software that did load balance calculations. We were given very clear specs on the algorithms, and our software still wasn't allowed to go live as the only trusted source until it had correctly run in parallel with the system (or a manual one) it replaced for 6 months. Any differences that prompted code changes restarted the 6 month test period.

      2. Cynic_999 Silver badge

        "

        Just make sure you have the passenger numbers to start with. Its known as plan b

        "

        Weight & balance could indeed all be calculated by the pilots or some simple software, but it's a bit more complex than that. The load sheet is used by the ground handlers to know what items to put where - which is determined by things other than just weight. Aircraft carry freight as well as passengers and baggage, and not only would the pilot need to have a list of all the freight & weight thereof (which he would not get if the computer is down), but will also need to know the volume and shape of that freight and any special requirements. Putting 5 items of freight weighing 2500kg into the forward hold may be great for the weight & balance, but the items might not all physically fit into that hold.

        Then there's a multitude of restrictions that the aircraft captain does not necessarily know about. The MRI scanner mustn't be placed in the forward hold because its magnetic field could upset the navigation systems. Certain types of live animals must not be put in the same hold together (dogs and snakes for example). There are lots of chemical combinations that must not be transported in the same hold. Fruit & veg should not be placed in proximity to fresh fish. Plus 1001 other rules that the pilot would not be expected to know but the loadmaster must take into account when preparing the load sheet.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Fish and fruit?

          I would have thought that ‘snakes on a plane’ was never a good idea?

          1. THMONSTER

            Re: Fish and fruit?

            There was a very good documentary about that presented by a Mr Sam Jackson, very informative.

          2. adam 40

            Re: Fish and fruit?

            So - apparently - it's better to cancel the entire plane and have the fish, dead bodies and snakes rotting in the terminal, then to let the plane go with the passengers on, but these items left out?

            Derrrrr....

        2. Cavehomme_ Bronze badge
          Alert

          Enjoy your fruit

          “Fruit & veg should not be placed in proximity to fresh fish.“

          Reminds me of one of my previous jobs when a flight came in on a Spanish airline we had a service contract with.

          Opened the hold and according to the loadsheet the cargo consisted of mostly fresh fruits mainly strawberries. We noted there was also HUM, ie. Humain Remains, so probably an expat in a box being repatriated. HUM was always seperate, and as verifed by the load sheet.

          Once the hold door of this narrowbody aircraft was open (no containers, just loose loaded stuff in this aircraft type), we saw the HUM immediately...plonked right on top of boxes of fruit by Spanish loaders who were probably under pressure to let the aircraft depart according to it’s slot! As it was taken out, we noticed that the HUM box had been leaking a bit!

          Enjoy your healthy fruit and 5 a day! Don’t forget to wash it well or better still buy local, pick or grow your own!

      3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "There nothing in these calculations that a straightforward IOS app (Android if you prefer) can't handle. Jiust make sure you have the passenger numbers to start with. Its known as plan b."

        That thought crossed my mind too, in a slightly dissimilar way. What is so complex about this software that it has to run "in the cloud"? Why is this not something an airline can by in and run on it's own systems? You really don't want to be at the mercy of a 3rd party for business critical systems. I wonder if the savings of doing it this way will be more or less than the losses just from this one outage?

      4. tip pc Bronze badge

        this what happens when they get the sums wrong

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_Midwest_Flight_5481

        1. Orv Silver badge

          Re: this what happens when they get the sums wrong

          Yup. There's also a sad litany of small airplane crashes due to weight-and-balance issues. Most of the time on a small plane you can just wing it (ha), especially if you're flying solo, but if you're packing in a full load of passengers and luggage it can get away from you, especially if (as is typical) the luggage all goes in the tail compartment. This is what's thought to have killed Aaliyah; heavy bodyguards in the back seat and luggage in the back.

          If you screw it up, best case is the CG is too far forward and you can't get the nose up to take off.

          Worst case, it's so far aft that you don't have enough elevator authority to keep the nose down, and you end up getting just high enough to crash before you stall. In between there's a whole range of traps, including the aircraft becoming unstable when the flaps are extended and the center of lift shifts.

        2. Jude Bradley

          Re: this what happens when they get the sums wrong

          Reading about that only the other day.

  3. Dan Wilkie

    I've always wondered this, so I'm hoping someone can explain...

    The plain sits on it's gear, and all it's weight is supported by it. Surely it would make more sense for the plane to calculate it's own weight and weight distribution from that? Then it's based on something measured rather than calculated too.

    I'm guessing it's not that simple or that's how it would be done, but if my seat can weight how much I am so it knows how hard to blow the airbag up in my face, then surely it can scale up to weighing how much load is on the suspension of the plane?

    1. BinkyTheHorse

      Does your car also measure the load on its flight surfaces while airborne?

      1. Dan Wilkie

        Depends how fast I drive I guess,

        But by definition as they're calculating these figures before the plane has taken off, neither is this - it's a static calculation. If they already have some way of feeding that data into whatever system they're using ground side, then it could just as easily feed into a.n. other system shirley?

        My understanding is this is just for calculating the weight distribution and CoG to make sure it's within static limits and to give the pilots the right figures to punch into the FMS.

      2. Frenchie Lad

        No it just sags and you either get pulled up or a tyre bursts. Much simpler than any arithmetic!

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        My car gets heavier the faster it goes...

      4. tip pc Bronze badge

        "Does your car also measure the load on its flight surfaces while airborne?"

        my car does measure the weight of passengers in the front and sets the airbags accordingly, not to little and not to much.

    2. andy 103

      Surely it would make more sense for the plane to calculate it's own weight and weight distribution from that?

      Calculating its total weight is one thing, but calculating the distribution of the weight is a different matter. The cargo can be loaded in various configurations and seats can be allocated in different ways. It's not about knowing just the total weight, it's knowing how that weight is distributed. Yes, they could fit weighing devices across multiple surfaces but the cost of doing that on every single plane would be astronomical in comparison to the system they're using (when it works).

      1. Dan Wilkie

        Fair point, I suppose doing it off the wheels alone would give you the weight and a the CoG while it's on its wheels, but not where that loads distributed through the plane, just the end result. Still, throw in mention of blockchain somewhere in the process and you've got a tech startup right there, I'm going to be rich!

        1. Frenchie Lad

          Good idea, there are sensors available that can measure the weight of lorries as they are moving (sensors in the macadam). We use them to catch overweight lorries. Shouldn't be too challenging to do someting simaltar for a plane (ie measure the load on each of the undercarriage legs) and that can give a fairly good CoG. Only issue will be the stiffiness of avaition authorities.

      2. wessel21

        The plane is generating pressure to 3 spots. Perfect: this is giving you the loadout AND the mass distribution.

        Just kick unable partners out and take real numbers instead of calculated nearly real numbers (or maybe complete BS).

      3. Cynic_999 Silver badge

        "

        Calculating its total weight is one thing, but calculating the distribution of the weight is a different matter.

        "

        The aircraft sits on three legs. This is sufficient to be able to calculate the total weight and 2-axis C of G (which is all that is required). An electronic load cell is not expensive, and could be fitted to each landing strut (though would have to be done at the design stage, I doubt retro-fitting would be possible).

        Alternatively the pressure of gas in the oleo would surely be proportional to the weight on that landing strut? A pressure sensor on each oleo could probably be retro-fitted.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. ida71u

      weight calculation

      Likewise I have always wondered why, aircraft do not have suspension sag measures. It would need calibrated once in a while & checked against a manual calc of the load index & trim. If cars & motorbikes are already fitted with these systems for dynamic suspension control, by measuring the compression & expansion of the suspension dampers, then it should be possible on aircraft.

      They should then be able to work out the load distribution from the relative compression of each leg, both in pitch & roll & adjust accordingly. In fact with some nifty computer programing an onboard machine could do it for you.

      But like everything air related, the red tape to get these things in place is often the deal breaker, as it has to be approved to be fitted, yadda yadda. Not like bolting on a test bit to a car & running it on a test track or the public highway if you want driver-less taxi's !

      I've been on small planes where they weigh you or ask you to sit in certain areas of the plane due to size & weight, to keep the trim good & avoid the pilots having to adjust trim every flight.

      1. Joe Werner

        Re: weight calculation

        You do these calculations before you load the cargo into the plane. Having the plane measure it and then say "oops, that's outside the safe limits, you need to unpack and rearrange" is sort of not helpful...

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Re: weight calculation

          The other important calculation for load sheets involves the fuel, whose centre of gravity can move around as it is consumed. Having the plane correctly-loaded so that it is balanced for takeoff is important, but making sure it is still correctly balanced for landing after having burnt many tonnes of the fuel is also not something you want to get wrong.

          1. Frenchie Lad

            Re: weight calculation

            Pilots can switch fuel tanks to even things up.

          2. Clarecats

            Re: weight calculation

            "The other important calculation for load sheets involves the fuel, whose centre of gravity can move around as it is consumed."

            This is similar to driving a tanker of liquid. There are three stages - full, empty and half full, all of which affect speed and braking. To stop all the liquid rushing forward at the red traffic light, or the milk turning to butter, there are baffles in the tank, and / or a series of tanks. Of course, the tanker does not consume the contents on the journey.

        2. Dan Wilkie

          Re: weight calculation

          Probably need to preface it with "should" - as otherwise everybody wouldn't have been sat in the plane for 3 hours ;)

          The centre of gravity will change in flight as fuels burned etc, but that's predictable. From some further digging I think this is to establish that the CoG and weight is within a safe threshold (around which the aircraft can be trimmed). So some kind of dynamic system on the gear probably would work, but by the time you build in all the redundancy and duplicate it across an entire fleet of aircraft as someone else pointed it the cost would probably be prohibitive. Especially since everything will need to withstand extremes of temperature and pressure since the gear wells aren't pressurised.

          If you can calculate it once by plugging in some numbers to tell you if it's within safe limits with a margin or not then it's probably not worth fiddling with it.

          There's a few free flight planners aimed at flight sims that replicate a lot of the functions, it's pretty cool to fiddle with if you're a huge nerd like, um, my friend...Dave.

          1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

            Re: weight calculation

            I think I know your friend Dave - he lives in my spare bedroom

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: weight calculation

            The centre of gravity will change in flight as fuels burned etc, but that's predictable.

            It is, but you still need to take those predictions into account when loading the plane, for both luggage & self-loading cargo.

        3. Pascal

          Re: weight calculation

          "You do these calculations before you load the cargo into the plane. Having the plane measure it and then say "oops, that's outside the safe limits, you need to unpack and rearrange" is sort of not helpful..."

          Then hum... Why were the passengers sitting IN a plane for 3 hours? Surely they should have done the calculations before letting them board?

          1. SkippyBing Silver badge

            Re: weight calculation

            'Surely they should have done the calculations before letting them board?'

            They may not have put anything in the hold though, passengers are fairly homogeneous for any reasonably sized aircraft but then you need to shuffle around the cargo/luggage.

        4. Cynic_999 Silver badge

          Re: weight calculation

          "

          You do these calculations before you load the cargo into the plane. Having the plane measure it and then say "oops, that's outside the safe limits, you need to unpack and rearrange" is sort of not helpful...

          "

          It very much IS helpful for the pilot to know that the ground crew has loaded some heavy freight in the wrong hold, or failed to load such freight because it was delayed. Because it is far better to know that the W&B is out of limits when the aircraft can be unloaded and re-arranged than to only realise after take-off when the pilot does not have enough forward elevator authority and the aircraft stalls into a housing estate from 500 feet.

          Or to get at least some advance warning that all the passengers are walking to the back because the steps for the front door have not arrived, and the aircraft is just about to tip onto its tail (has happened more than once).

    4. Thought About IT

      It's all very well weighing passengers' luggage, but there's a huge variation in the weight of individuals, so mass and balance calculations must have a wide safety margin. As most seat allocation is self selecting, the check-in staff can't even distribute the obese passengers to even things out. In that case you'd think that strain gauges on the undercarriage would provide a good enough estimate.

      1. Frenchie Lad

        Since when have you been weighed on check-in? Worst case scenario they flog you a second ticket which sorts out the load balancing issue.

        1. eionmac

          Usually weight checked on small planes.

          On some flights I have taken, your weight (as presented to aircraft including all the things in your pockets, ) is checked on scales and this allocates seat position. Over 35 years of flying as a passenger (weekly or more flights taken) I found this occurred about 4 to 8 times per year. No big deal!

      2. SkippyBing Silver badge

        'there's a huge variation in the weight of individuals, so mass and balance calculations must have a wide safety margin'

        There's an ICAO standard weight for a passenger which you can use if you're carrying more than a certain number of passengers. Unsurprisingly a few years ago it was revised upwards, I think to 83kg.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          "There's an ICAO standard weight for a passenger which you can use if you're carrying more than a certain number of passengers. Unsurprisingly a few years ago it was revised upwards, I think to 83kg."

          Which is probably why, on a school exchange visit to France many years ago, 40 kids, aged between 12 and 16 were manually rearranged into suitable seats on the first leg of the journey flying a Trident down to Heathrow. A small enough aircraft that the unusually large number of little people meant taking their approximate weights into consideration in the seating plan. There was none of that kerfuffle flying the much larger Tristar across to Charles De Gaulle.

      3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        That is why the captain has to sign off that they approve the load sheet - because it is impossible to calculate.

        By making a man in a fancy hat ultimately responsible you solve the problem

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          "By making a man in a fancy hat ultimately responsible you solve the problem"

          A humorous way of putting it, but the "driver" is ultimately responsible for the vehicle while in motion. The same applies to ships and road vehicles to. I'm specifically aware of lorries/HGV in that no matter who does the loading, the driver is the one who gets fined if the load is unsafe, out of balance etc. and possibly on charges of manslaughter if the mis-loading is the root cause or attributable cause to a death in an RTA.

    5. Fursty Ferret

      I'm guessing it's not that simple or that's how it would be done, but if my seat can weight how much I am so it knows how hard to blow the airbag up in my face, then surely it can scale up to weighing how much load is on the suspension of the plane?

      Some can, but it's not accurate enough for reliable use. Sloping aprons, uneven tarmac, and wind will all throw off the calculation. The aircraft can calculate its own weight pretty accurately once airborne using aerodynamic data.

      1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

        "

        Some can, but it's not accurate enough for reliable use. Sloping aprons, uneven tarmac, and wind will all throw off the calculation

        "

        It will not always give a 100% reliable figure, but will certainly catch gross errors that are large enough to cause a disaster.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      On blustery days

      When this information is even more critical you'll find that sensor's on a stationary objection exposed to the elements could report all sorts of readings. Not to mention they would need to retrofit and test thousand of new suspension mechanisms to aging but always in use aircraft. It's not that this is a bad idea just that someone thought of a cheaper/quicker way to calculate all this.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: On blustery days

        you'll find that sensor's on a stationary objection exposed to the elements could report all sorts of readings.

        Yep, just the wind blowing over the stationary wings shifts the plane's apparent balance points.

    7. Cynic_999 Silver badge

      "

      Surely it would make more sense for the plane to calculate it's own weight & balance

      "

      Yes, my thoughts exactly. Would just need a suitable load cell in each gear strut. I've never seen a satisfactory reason as to why it's not done.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Would just need a suitable load cell in each gear strut. I've never seen a satisfactory reason as to why it's not done.

        See the post further up. Letting you load it and then telling you "nope, try again" isn't useful.

    8. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      I've always wondered this - sure, easy to do afterwards ... but if you've loaded the plane wrong then you have to unload and try again.

      The real question is, how did we do this before the age of computers? Paper, pencil and human experience ... all easily replaced by a computer ... until something goes wrong.

      1. Orv Silver badge

        The real question is, how did we do this before the age of computers? Paper, pencil and human experience ... all easily replaced by a computer ... until something goes wrong.

        I believe airlines had employees who did basically nothing but make these calculations.

        The thing is, they were fallible too. A surprising number of old accident investigations found that the weight-and-balance calculations were incorrect, although in the vast majority of cases they were close enough that it didn't create a problem. A computer system that reliably gets it right but occasionally goes down entirely is probably better than a human who occasionally sends a flight into the air based on incorrect numbers, although neither is ideal.

  4. Gordon 10 Silver badge

    Eh? Amadeus Best known for

    There was me thinking that Amadeus was best known for 40 odd years of providing Booking, reservation and ticketing services to the Travel Industry - both Agents and Operators.

    I can't think of one LCC that uses them off the top of my head, I'm sure there maybe, but since they charge a transaction fee each time most of the cheaper operators refuse to use them.

    1. Lars Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Eh? Amadeus Best known for

      The Wiki has this on the "Altéa Departure Control, a departure control system software package".

      "In 2000, Amadeus was awarded the development of two new operational applications for British Airways and Qantas: the inventory management and the departure control systems.[36] These products were outside of the core expertise domain of Amadeus and were built with the expertise of the airlines. "

      Also about Amadeus:

      "Amadeus CRS is the largest GDS provider in the worldwide travel and tourism industry, with an estimated market share of 37% in 2009.[29] As of December 2010, over 90,000 travel agencies worldwide use the Amadeus system and 58,000 airline sales offices use it as their internal sales and reservations system. Amadeus gives access to bookable content from 435 airlines (including 60 low cost carriers), 29 car rental companies (representing 36,000 car rental locations), 51 cruise lines and ferry operators, 280 hotel chains and 87,000 hotels, 200 tour operators, 103 rail operators and 116 travel insurance companies."

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amadeus_IT_Group#cite_note-36

      1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

        Re: Eh? Amadeus Best known for

        60 LCCs is quite good.

        Would disagree that DC systems are outside of core GDS expertise - they are fairly closely coupled to the core GDS. I’ve worked on both.

  5. EnviableOne Bronze badge

    Amadeus

    AFAIK this could be the thin end of a wedge, its security is nigh on non-existant and any miscreant could fiddle the figures.

    Load sheets are a effort to pull a rabbit out of thin air, and nothing like as acurate as they could be. it might cause some issues with privacy, but each bag is weighed to sort the bance of the cargo hold, so why isnt each passenger and their hand luggage, if these are then put into the calculation you could get a good measure of the centre of mass and the TOW of the aircraft, along with work on distributing the passengers better.

    1. David Nash Silver badge

      Re: Amadeus

      If they started weighing passengers then it would be a short leap to charging them accordingly, which makes sense but which lots of people would not like.

      1. Joe Werner

        Re: Amadeus

        Well, they do acocunt for this if the plane is not fully booked. I have been on several flights where the first two rows were "business" (not actually, but... ah well), and then there were about 15 or so rows empty, and the rest of the passengers were in the rear half of the plane.

      2. Drew Scriver

        Re: Amadeus

        That would make sense. A BMI of 21 could be the baseline and every point above or below could translate to a, say, 5% surcharge or discount, respectively.

        It may even have a positive effect on the global obesity crisis.

        Granted, I may be a wee bit biased in favor of such a formula as many passengers weigh more than my luggage and I weigh combined...

        Interesting related detail: the load limit of passenger vehicles is calculated as "number of seats multiplied by 175 lbs (80 kg)".

        1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

          Weighing Passengers

          I remember going on a school trip and the cabin crew said they had to count the number of adults & children for the captain to correctly calculate the required fuel for the trip. Some of the children were bigger than the teachers, which seemed to make the exercise slightly futile.

        2. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

          Re: Amadeus

          BMI?

          Why should a tall person get a discount?

          1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

            Re: Amadeus @ABC

            "Why should a tall person get a discount?"

            Because there is nothing that can be done about being tall, unlike most obesity. I could equally ask why a short person should get a discount.

            Me - I'm 6'6", why do you ask? :-)

        3. LeahroyNake Bronze badge

          Re: Amadeus

          'Interesting related detail: the load limit of passenger vehicles is calculated as "number of seats multiplied by 175 lbs (80 kg)".'

          If that's the case then you wouldn't be able to put anything in the boot (trunk) if all seats were occupied by passengers... what do you do with the luggage ?

          1. Orv Silver badge

            Re: Amadeus

            Many passenger cars *are* actually over their GVWR if you load up four adults and their luggage. And the vast majority of small aircraft cannot technically legally fly with an adult in every seat. In both cases, they're often driven or flown "over gross" anyway; in small aircraft this is usually not a big problem as long as the center of gravity limits are respected.

            1. UncleZoot

              Re: Amadeus

              I don't know any private pilot that's going to fly a plane over the gross weight unless he's looking to become a statistic.

              My Cessna 340A has a gross weight of 6050 lbs, of which 3850 lbs is the aircraft as equipped. That leaves me 2200 lbs for cargo including fuel. Given that I plan on getting from point A to point B in one piece, fuel loading and weight and balance is something that's calculated before every flight.

              1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

                Re: Amadeus

                "

                Given that I plan on getting from point A to point B in one piece, fuel loading and weight and balance is something that's calculated before every flight.

                "

                Why? If you calculated the W&B once, why do you believe it is necessary to do so every time you fly with that same (or very similar) load? The answer won't change because it's a different date!

                I would calculate W&B if I was taking an unusual or marginal load, but in most cases I would be quite confident that full tanks plus 3 passengers (say) would be well within W&B unless the passengers were grossly overweight. But if I was taking 5 passengers plus luggage, then sure, I'd do a full W&B calculation to determine how much fuel I could carry (and yes, I'd weigh the passengers).

          2. Peconet57

            Re: Amadeus

            You have another car/lorry/truck following behind with the said luggage.

          3. Drew Scriver

            Re: Amadeus

            Alright - I was wrong. From the Toyota Corolla's owner's manual:

            "Seating capacity means the maximum number of occupants whose estimated average weight is 150 lb. (68 kg) per person. Toyota does not recommend towing a trailer with your vehicle. Cargo capacity may increase or decrease depending on the weight and the number of occupants."

            www.tcorolla.net/vehicle_load_limits-95.html

            If you tow a trailer you have to add the tongue weight of that also.

    2. Orv Silver badge

      Re: Amadeus

      ...why isnt each passenger and their hand luggage, if these are then put into the calculation you could get a good measure of the centre of mass and the TOW of the aircraft, along with work on distributing the passengers better.

      My guess is, since passengers are evenly distributed throughout the plane, it's easier and reasonably effective to just use averages -- at least on large planes, where you're averaging across a pretty large number of people. Weighing each passenger would add a lot of time to the already lengthy boarding process, and the extra time spent during turnaround would probably outweigh any potential fuel savings.

  6. 0laf Silver badge
    FAIL

    IMHO one of the problems here is not the lack of a backup but the lack of an appropriate response by BA to a problem.

    There was a problem with planes and BA's 'procedures' for dealing with grounded passengers seemed to be a combination of running away, hiding in corners and hoping that the god of airlines will make all the angry people go away.

    My own last experience of BA at T5 (in 2017)was that my plane had a small leak in a refuelling valve that needed a tech to look at it. From BA's reaction this might as well have been the the End of Days. Senior staff immediately took to their heels. Buses couldn't be found to take us off the plane, then buses arrived by stairs could be found. Of the 3 buses only two made their way back to the terminal. Bus three never arrived with the passengers but then the passengers arrived after apparently not going back through security.

    The one junior member of staff wheeled out stood around saying "I don't know what to do". She was lucky the plane was filled with Oil industry managers going to Aberdeen and not pissed up holiday makers going to Ibiza.

    The farce continued for some hours before we made it home 8hr late. BA took my complaint to the wire ignoring me and claiming that I hadn't sent any complaint until Resolver.com produced their email log to the Ombudsman.

    BA are utterly shit when there is a problem.

    Other airlines are useless with faults (I've been delayed many times) but only BA managed to descend into total farce.

  7. Bavaria Blu

    Phew

    I was lucky, flying in to LHR on Tuesday evening. It does seem like some of the systems behind the front end could do with being updated. BA has a shiny app, but it doesn't know which gate I should go to, even though that must (hopefully!) be known in advance?

    I always found it strange at Paddington that the platform wasn't annouced until a couple of minutes before the train arrived "for security reasons". Total BS as in Germany the platform a train will be using is known 3 months ahead. They are even planned so changing long distance train often just means crossing the platform. How can knowing which platform a train leaves from be a security problem?

    1. ArrZarr Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      How can knowing which platform a train leaves from be a security problem?

      I can think of several ways I could abuse this knowledge if I were so inclined, generally involving timers planted well ahead of time.

      Luckily I'm not so inclined which means that the GCHQ bod reading this can calm down.

      1. LeahroyNake Bronze badge

        Re: How can knowing which platform a train leaves from be a security problem?

        While it would work in Japan I don't think the UK train timetable is accurate enough to present a danger.

        1. Dr_N Silver badge

          Re: How can knowing which platform a train leaves from be a security problem?

          >While it would work in Japan

          Platform info works great on the Japanese Tourist Board app and the Navitime app it's based on. So no problems there.

      2. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

        Re: How can knowing which platform a train leaves from be a security problem?

        I can think of several ways I could abuse this knowledge if I were so inclined, generally involving timers planted well ahead of time.

        If I were inclined to target a specific train at a certain time I'd just choose another station elsewhere on the line where there isn't the opportunity to switch platforms at the last minute. Or anywhere the multiple tracks into platforms converge into fewer.

        Or plant my device at departure, or along the journey, or at whichever platform it does eventually arrive at.

        It seems to me that any reduction in genuine security threat by not announcing in advance which platform will be used is at best minimal and more a convenient excuse for not knowing.

      3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: How can knowing which platform a train leaves from be a security problem?

        "I can think of several ways I could abuse this knowledge if I were so inclined, generally involving timers planted well ahead of time."

        And yet it's never happened to the best of my knowledge. It's almost as if a group of middle managers went on a team building piss-up weekend and brainstormed as many "security threats" as they could think of and then implemented "solutions" for all of them instead of the just the existing or likely ones.

      4. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: How can knowing which platform a train leaves from be a security problem?

        Luckily I'm not so inclined which means that the GCHQ bod reading this can calm down

        You say that, but it's probably safer to lock you up anyway. Just in case.

        Habeus Corpus? What's that then?

    2. jaywin

      Re: Phew

      > How can knowing which platform a train leaves from be a security problem?

      You're thinking security problem = terrorist problem. They're probably thinking security problem = person with cheap ticket getting on a peak time train.

    3. Tony Gathercole ...
      Facepalm

      Platforms

      Total Baloney! Platform allocations are easily available to the general public from the likes of RealTimeTrains.co.uk (*) and have been for several years - RTT even flags up changes from the standard plan. Used to be very useful at major stations like London Euston where announcements were made only a few minutes before departure - if you were in the know you could be at the front of the queue at the barrier (or, in fact, sometimes able to wander straight on to the platform as the gates were open from a previous arrival!).

      (*) other similar services are available.

    4. Orv Silver badge

      Re: Phew

      I recently sat for half an hour on a plane because someone else was parked at our gate.

      The problem is flights get delayed, canceled, irregular charter flights get booked -- it's all very chaotic and that makes it hard to know gate numbers too far in advance. I've been told one gate at check-in and found it had changed by the time I finished going through security, sometimes.

    5. really_adf

      Re: Phew

      I always found it strange at Paddington that the platform wasn't annouced until a couple of minutes before the train arrived "for security reasons".

      I've never heard a delay in platform advertisement described as being for security reasons. Platforms are planned alongside the timetable (months in advance) but at a terminus like Paddington there are a couple of obvious operational reasons to advertise "late": the train is being prepared for its next journey (cleaning, seat reservations) so is not ready for boarding and, when things are not going to plan, it avoids last-minute changes causing confusion (maybe ticket barrier issues at Paddington specifically).

      At non-terminus stations, the first reason isn't applicable, and scope for platform changes is often limited by the infrastructure so platforms are displayed as far ahead as the departure board goes.

      See also eg http://www.realtimetrains.co.uk/search/basic/PAD.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Amadeus is a 30 year old goliath

    Framing Amadeus as the tech outsourcer used by Easyjet is a complete misrepresentation.

    Amadeus is one of a handful is global IT companies, the other big one being SABRE, that basically act as the entire back-end for the travel industry.

    1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Amadeus is a 30 year old goliath

      Amadeus is one of a handful is global IT companies, the other big one being SABRE

      There used to be another one (Galileo) but it eventually faded into near-nonexistance after a decade of utter mismanagement[1] by the airline consortium that set it up. I worked there between 1989 and 1995.

      Main culprits - Unitied Airlines and BA..

      [1] Including closing the European data centre, despite[2] the fact that we were much, much better at coding cleanly than the US data centre and then being surprised that only a very small percentage of employees wanted to move to the US.. Apparently, the senior management had thought that most people would bite their hands off for the chance. Also, we were supposed to be the DR fallover for the US data centre which was based right next to the runway at Denver airport. After they closed the UK DC, they set up a DR site in the US - right next to the existing DC.

      [2] Or, more likely, because of.

  9. Alistair Silver badge
    Windows

    and for all the 'why not use the weight on wheels' -> not flat and not level, and wings + ambient breezes.

    Oddly, whilst eldest was in air cadets, this entire calculation is discussed in minute detail for everything from gliders on up to massive air freight haulers. With a *very* interesting discussion about in flight refuelling tanker craft. (and yes, load weight on a glider is indeed relevant. To the pilot of the powered craft that will be towing it off the ground).... somewhere buried under a ton of paper I have a book....

    1. Orv Silver badge

      It's of keen interest to the tow pilot, but proper balance is also important to the person at the other end of the rope! Gliders can have their handling affected just as adversely as any other aircraft, it's just that with only two or three seats and maybe some water ballast the calculations are quite a bit easier. Often they just placard the seats with the required weight.

      I used to fly ASK-15s. I was skinny back then and had to fly with 20 lbs of lead under my seat to meet the required minimum front seat weight. One of our other gliders, a Schweitzer 2-22, had its own lead weight blocks that could be bolted into the nose as needed.

  10. Milton Silver badge

    CG & Weight Restrictions

    A plane could theoretically tell from undercarriage sensors how heavy it was and, very approximately how that weight was distributed ('v. approx' because realistically you have only the nosewheel as a reference point of sufficient moment). It might be enough to warn flight crew not to attempt a takeoff because of excess weight or out-of-bounds CG. But, as others have remarked, finding this out after all pax and cargo have been loaded is expensive. You have to decide where to put heavy ULDs before loading anything, and for every aircraft you'll need to consider its MTOW, worst-case flight duration, predicted head/tailwinds, plus fuel for alternates. A well-designed loading system will put the right masses in the right places, not just for safety but to ensure that the crew don't have to tinker with compensatory trim—you have to consider centre of lift as well as centre of mass—thereby saving fuel: a nicely balanced plane can be trimmed for most economical cruise. Also makes for a nicer ride: an out of trim plane can be mysteriously unsettling, with almost imperceptible low frequency vibration. (If the crew find themselves having to trim a plane more than usual, it can indeed be because the CG isn't right; and yes, fuel management is important, both to preserve lateral evenness, cross-feeding between wing tanks*¹, and fore-and-aft balance, as modern planes may have large centreline tanks, often ahead of the wing box section, and additional tanks aft, in the empennage. (Concorde used to have to pump fuel fore-&-aft during flight to adjust the CG, as the centre of lift moved drastically in the supersonic envelope

    So while it may seem reasonable to put sensitive weight sensors in the undercarriage, they'll never replace the load sheet calculations and stowage decisions. Tilt switches are fitted to the undercarriages of commercial airliners, but their job is primarily to detect when the plane's weight is settling onto the wheels during landing, so that systems like spoiler autodeployment can work correctly (spoilers are armed during finals, so that as soon as the undercarriage "feels" concrete, they will pop up automatically to interrupt the airflow over the top of the wings and destroy the lift, thus ensuring that the plane stays stuck down and doesn't bounce back into the air, and the wheel brakes will have full authority).

    After verifying that any imbalance isn't caused by a leak, else you may find yourself gliding a flamed-out widebody over the Atlantic ... lookin' at you, Air Transat. Good flying, though. ;-)

  11. dubious

    outsourcing

    It seems properly odd that a company the size of IAG, especially if you get their 20-25% owners Qatar Airways on-board too, would outsource something so critical to their operation and reputation. The licensing bill must surely be fearsome.

    But what do I know, my clothing sense is as deeply unfashionable as in-house IS is in this era of perpetually renting some cloudy 3rd party webservice saas bollocks.

    1. EnviableOne Bronze badge

      Re: outsourcing

      Its not really outsourcing between Amadeus and SABRE they cover just about the whole Airline System.

      Amadeus provides search, pricing, booking, ticketing and other processing services in real-time to travel providers and travel agencies, it also offers travel companies software systems which automate processes such as reservations, inventory management and departure control.

  12. stuartnz

    I haven't read any of the other comments yet, I just wanted to say that one of the many reasons I love El Reg is that I know a very significant proportion of the readership would instantly have though of lemon-soaked paper napkins when they read this:

    "Stuck on the ground awaiting a load sheet?"

  13. whileI'mhere

    Reminds me of an apocryphal WWII RAF exam question for pilots. Something like 'you are the pilot flying Winston Churchill, the PM, and his staff to an overseas conference when the rear cargo hatch blows open and WC is ejected from the plane. How do you react?' The answers varied from ' swoop down and catch him', jump out with a parachute and catch him', to 'divert to RIo and disappear'. The correct answer was, of course, 'adjust rear ailerons to compensate for reduced weight in rear cargo compartment'

  14. russmichaels

    Re: "The former policy wonk -

    Nothing is 100% perfect, despite whatever you big headed know it alls think, and IT systems sometimes fail, even at the biggest companies, run by smarter people than you.

    It is hardly like this happens all the time, in fact it is the first time I ever heard of such a failure.

  15. ChrisBedford
    Joke

    This Is The Silliest Ugly Pnemonic

    ...that I've ever seen retrofitted to a figure of speech...

    *TITSUP

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Got on a plane to Belfast once from what was a tiny airport near Nottingham, now called EMA.

    Only a 30odd seater, so we sat at the front and could hear the pilot arguing with the ground staff over the load sheet. Pilots records said we should have had, lets say, 30 suitcases loaded, ground crew records show they loaded 31. Pilot was refusing to take off with an extra bag.

    Despite the delay, taking the destination in to count, I was with the pilot!!

    1. Cavehomme_ Bronze badge
      Mushroom

      Extra bag

      That argument was very unlikely due to weight issues, it would be very likely well within margins. It would be an argument concerning security. Why did an extra bag appear? Who put on an undeclared bag, what’s inside, etc? Reconciliation of passengers, stated baggage and actual baggage is hugely important in these days of Al-Nutters and potential infiltration by their people into sensitive operational areas.

  17. Sam Therapy
    Happy

    On the radio yesterday...

    Took the car in for a service yesterday. The garage radio was playing "Rock Me Amadeus".

    Coincidence? Yeah, probably.

  18. UncleZoot

    So the system was down to calculate a load sheet? The last time I checked, the pilot was pilot and first officer were the ones that calculated the load sheets and ordered the fuel.

    If you don't know the load, you can't calculate the fuel required or more importantly, your V1, V2, and rotate speeds.

    A basic spread sheet, with passenger count, freight weight and distance to be flown will yield the fuel required in pounds, liters or tonnes.

  19. LisaJK

    Weighing

    Is it really easier and, more to the point, safer to add all this tech than to just weigh the plane???

    Load cells on the parking spots would not be a particularly huge cost, but safety would be enhanced.

    Such a system would also overcome issues like that of the Gimli glider, where fuel quantities were mistaken due to confusion between gallons and litres.

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