Aer Lingus may seek redress from IT company over systems failure that hit over 30,000 passengers

Airline putting a second backup in place to prevent another such incident, says corporate affairs chief

Aer Lingus is in discussions with multinational Kyndryl over a systems failure that hit more than 30,000 of the airline’s passengers last month.

Damage to a fibre optic cable combined with the failure of its IT contractor’s backup knocked out the carrier’s passenger processing system on Saturday, September 10th, stranding or delaying 32,000 people.

Aer Lingus corporate affairs chief Donal Moriarty told the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport that the company was in talks with the IT provider, Kyndryl, over issues from the system failure.

“We are engaging with the provider on the consequences for both ourselves and our customers from the outage,” he said.


He was responding to committee member, Fine Gael Senator Jerry Buttimer, who asked if the issue was likely to go to court, and argued that the IT provider should also be held accountable for the problem that affected Aer Lingus passengers.

Aer Lingus chief customer officer Susanne Carberry told the committee that almost 7,500 customers subsequently sought compensation from the airline. “We have successfully processed 91 per cent of them,” she added.

Ms Carberry said 11,000 customers’ flights were cancelled while 21,000 were delayed. Most of those whose flights were cancelled were reaccommodated over the following 72 hours, she said, adding that the airline had about 700 compensation claims outstanding.

Aer Lingus chief executive Lynne Embleton apologised to customers for the chaos on September 10th. She stressed that it was completely unprecedented that both the system and the backup would fail simultaneously.

Mr Moriarty told the committee that Aer Lingus is putting a second backup in place to prevent another such failure, but added that the airline did not expect to use it as what happened was “truly exceptional”.

Aer Lingus management confirmed at the hearing that they discovered within a few hours on September 10th that builders had accidentally cut a fibre optic cable used by Kyndryl.

It then emerged that a network card used in its backup system was not functioning, leaving the airline with no passenger information for hours on September 10th.

Some problems continued over the following days but Ms Embleton said Aer Lingus got 98 per cent of its schedule off on Sunday, September 11th.

Independent TD Michael Lowry said he passed through Dublin Airport on September 10th and was “gobsmacked” to see crowds of Aer Lingus passengers waiting there.

“Nobody seemed to know what was happening,” he said, adding that most of those hit found out from national newspapers that flights had been cancelled.

“People hadn’t a clue what was going on,” he said. “They were getting frustrated, they were tired, some of them had been there all day.”

Ms Embleton said she “very much recognised” what the TD described. She said the joint failure of the system and its backup left Aer Lingus unable to process passengers or to depart their flights.

She said Aer Lingus was continuing to question Kyndryl about what happened and said a robust backup system was part of the airline’s agreement with the IT company.

Kyndryl is a “top-tier” IT services supplier, which means that it owns its own infrastructure, according to Mr Moriarty. He said Aer Lingus chose the US company’s British-based operations to host its booking system for this reason and because it had the specific expertise the airline needed.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O’Halloran covers energy, construction, insolvency, and gaming and betting, among other areas