British Airways has cancelled all flights from Heathrow and Gatwick following a massive global IT failure.
Every departure scheduled on Saturday was cancelled and the airline asked passengers not to come to the airports.
On Saturday night the operator said it intended to run a “near normal schedule” at Gatwick on Sunday and the “majority of services” from Heathrow.
It comes as hotels surrounding the airports charged extortionate prices to stranded holiday makers with some charging between £1,000 to £2,5000 a room for the night.
The chaos happened just after 11am on Saturday when the company’s unreliable new IT system crashed worldwide for the sixth time in a year.
After thousands of furious complaints from customers left in the dark about their flights, bags and compensation, the company released a video online of CEO Alex Cruz apologising to passengers.
In it he said the global IT failure was down to a problem with power supply and that technical teams were working “tirelessly” to get systems back up and running.
Travellers at British airports started flooding the company’s Twitter account with complaints of flights grounded, online services unavailable and huge queues.
The computer glitch, which also took out the BA website for two hours, comes after an outage in September of last year which followed four in the space of a month across June and July.
This afternoon, BA said it had cancelled all flights leaving from Heathrow and Gatwick for the rest of today because of a “major IT system failure”.
A spokeswoman had previously apologised to customers adding: “We are working to resolve the problem as quickly as possible.”
The BA.com website delivered a basis 404 Error for two hours from 11am but is now back online.
Heathrow said its staff were working closely with the airline to resolve the problem.
Around the world planes were grounded and passengers stuck either in terminal buildings or on planes themselves, as a shortage of available gates meant incoming passengers had no opportunity to disembark.
Customers across the world have been tweeting the company complaining they have been waiting to get off their flights for up to three hours.
In a reply to one disgruntled traveler on Twitter the company wrote: “We’re experiencing a global system outage.”
It comes as thousands of Britons headed overseas for the long weekend with half-term school holidays next week.
BA’s website was unavailable and some travellers claimed they could not check in on the mobile app, with many venting their frustration on social media.
One passenger, Henry Tail, tweeted: “Hey @British-Airways, couldn’t log in to the app with my boarding pass on because systems were down and I missed my flight. What can I do?”
Another, Nadia Whittley, posted: “British airways computers down T5 and standstill, stranded on the plane and they make us pay for food!! Please retweet this indicency! (SIC)”
Julie Adie wrote: “We are on the runway.. For hour now..no offer of drinks..and because ba only takes cards now, we only have cash…wat we supposed to do!!?? (SIC)”
A spokesman for Heathrow, where queues at Terminal 5 were described as “catastrophic”, said: “An issue with a worldwide British Airways’ IT system is causing some delays for passengers at Heathrow this morning.
“We are working closely with the airline to resolve this and are advising passengers to check the status of their flight before travelling to the airport.
“Extra Heathrow customer service colleagues have been called in to assist passengers in terminals while this issue is resolved.”
Melissa Davis, who runs MD Communications, a legal PR agency in London, was held for more than an hour and a half on the tarmac at Heathrow, on board a BA flight returning from Belfast.
Speaking from the plane, Miss Davis said the air conditioning had been off “so I don’t think we will be going anywhere any time soon”, but added that the passengers had been kept informed by their pilot and given water while they remained seated.
She later said she and others were then told they could not transfer to other flights because “they can’t bring up our details”.