Software glitch causes Tui aircraft to be involved in a "serious incident"

Tui is a company in the UK that operates commercial airline services. Recently, a flight departing Birmingham airport and heading to Majproca with 187 people on board was in what the Air Accidents Investigation Branch classifies as a "serious incident." The incident wasn't because of a failure of some sort aboard the aircraft or an error made by the pilots in charge.

Rather, the incident was due to a software glitch that caused the flight to take off at a heavier weight than expected. An update in the airline's reservation system while the aircraft were grounded due to the coronavirus pandemic led to 38 passengers on the flight being allocated a child's standard weight of 35 kilograms rather than the standard adult weight 69 kilograms. While that may not sound like much of an issue, it significantly impacted the load sheet used by pilots to calculate the correct aircraft settings for takeoff.

The result of the software glitch was that pilots believed the Boeing 737 was 1200 kilograms lighter than it actually was. While the Air Accidents Investigation Branch classifies this as a "serious incident," the result was that the aircraft departed the runway using "marginally less" thrust than should have been used. However, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch says that the aircraft's safety and its operation were not compromised.

The same software flaw impacted two other Tui flights that left the UK later the same day. All 38 of the passengers that had incorrect weights applied used the prefix Miss on boarding paperwork. Investigators describe the software glitch as a "simple flaw" in an IT system that had been programmed in a foreign country.

While the country is unnamed, investigators say that in that country, the title Miss is used for children and "Ms" for an adult female. The airline has introduced additional manual checks to ensure that adult females are referred to as Ms on relevant documentation.