At least British Airways 35 flights from North America and the Caribbean to London airports have been cancelled or seriously delayed overnight, with severe knock-on effects for other travellers in the days before Christmas.
Ten of Tuesday’s long-haul departures from London Heathrow have been grounded as a result.
The flights affected were departures from US, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean, bound for London Heathrow and Gatwick airports.
Six flights – from Boston, Chicago, Denver, Nashville, New York JFK and Washington DC – have been cancelled outright.
Five more – from Toronto, Chicago, Boston, Nassau and Antigua – are delayed by around 24 hours.
One passenger at New York JFK, named Kerry from County Durham, wrote on Twitter: “BA172 JFK-LHR your customer update as to what’s happening is appalling. We’re sat at a packed terminal with 4 flights going nowhere. Any ideas please what’s going on?
“Obviously we will miss our LHR-NCL connection also.”
She was told: “We’re experiencing delays to some of our flights due to a technical issue with our flight planning.
“We’re sorry for the disruption to our customers’ journey, we’re urgently investigating this so that they can travel as soon as possible.”
The stranded passenger then wrote: “You have cancelled our flight and told us to queue to rebook non existing flights!?”
Meanwhile, several planeloads of passengers at Newark, Seattle, Toronto and Washington DC’s airports are simply “delayed”, according to the information on ba.com, with no indication of when they might fly.
Twenty-five flights are delayed by three hours or more, with three flights from New York JFK delayed by five hours.
Passengers travelling from San Francisco to Heathrow and Kingston to Gatwick are delayed even further.
Under European air passengers’ rights rules, travellers are entitled to alternative flights – but very few seats are available. They will also be due £520 in cash compensation for the delay or cancellation.
With many aircraft flying full so close to Christmas, it is unclear how all passengers will be able to be flown to where they need to be.
There are also serious knock-on effects for flights on Tuesday and for the rest of the week.
One departure from Heathrow to each of Denver, Boston, Tokyo, Washington DC, Nashville, Chicago, Toronto has been grounded – with three New York JFK services also cancelled.
The corresponding inbound flights from these US and Canadian cities will also be grounded.
Tuesday’s cancelled flights alone were scheduled to carry at least 5,000 passengers.
From Gatwick. departures to Barbados, Punta Cana, Orlando and Doha are delayed by at least three hours.
A BA spokesperspn said: “Our teams have now resolved a temporary issue that affected some of our long-haul flight planning systems overnight, which resulted in delays to our schedule.
“We’re sorry for the disruption caused to our customers’ travel plans.”