Monday, 8 July 2019

British Airways vows to fight record fine for data breaches while pilots talk of strike action ahead

The UK's British Airways has said it would fight and contest the record fine of £183 million its been charged with, for a mass breach of its systems last year that saw more than half a million passengers data stolen.

BA is part of the International Airlines Group and claims to have been surprised and disappointed by the massive fine from the UK's Information Commissioner's Office (ICO). IAG's Chief Executive Willie Walsh confirmed British Airways would be fighting the fine, "We intend to take all appropriate steps to defend the airline's position vigorously, including making any necessary appeals," he said.

Whilst Alex Cruz, the head of British Airways said,  "British Airways responded quickly to a criminal act to steal customers' data. We have found no evidence of fraud/fraudulent activity on accounts linked to the theft. We apologise to our customers for any inconvenience this event caused."
Many of BA's passengers have contested Cruz's assertion that it had found no evidence of fraud on customers cards today, stating since the breach fraudulent charges had been made to their accounts.

The data breach took place between 22:58 BST on 21 August and 21:45 BST on 5 September and about 380,000 people had their names, addresses, flight booking details and payment card data stolen. This followed an earlier breach between April 21 and July 28 which affected up to 200,000 customers.

The Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said: "People's personal data is just that - personal. When an organisation fails to protect it from loss, damage or theft, it is more than an inconvenience. That's why the law is clear - when you are entrusted with personal data, you must look after it. Those that don't will face scrutiny from my office to check they have taken appropriate steps to protect fundamental privacy rights."

The fine imposed on British Airways is the first one to be made public since new rules were introduced and whilst it seems a lot, it could have been much higher. Under the new regulations, the maximum penalty equates to 4% of a firms turnover, the penalty for British Airways is around 1.5% of its turnover in 2017.

If new of the fine wasn't bad enough for the bosses of the UK's biggest airline, its pilots have rejected an offer of a pay rise that is said to be worth over 11% spread over three years.  The British Airline Pilots' Association (Balpa) union says its members deserve a better offer, especially as the airline is making healthy profits - (£1.96 billion in 2018). 

The pilots have until 22nd July to hold a vote on strike action and if they vote in favour of walking out, all then need to give is two weeks notice, which means in the first week of August the airline's flight schedules would be thrown into chaos.  Two Balpa members have told Air101 that whilst they have "no desire to cause disruption to passengers travel plans in August, or later in the summer", they would vote in favour of industrial action.

The two sides will continue to meet at the conciliation service Acas in an effort to resolve the situation, yet we understand that BA representatives have been told not to offer more than 12.5%.

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