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The chief executive of British Airways has apologised for what he has called a very sophisticated breach of the firm's security systems.
Alex Cruz told the BBC that hackers carried out a "sophisticated, malicious criminal attack" on its website.
The airline said personal and financial details of customers making bookings had been compromised.
About 380,000 transactions were affected, but the stolen data did not include travel or passport details.
BA said the breach took place between 22:58 BST on 21 August and 21:45 BST on 5 September.
Mr Cruz told the BBC's Today programme: "We're extremely sorry. I know that it is causing concern to some of our customers, particularly those customers that made transactions over our BA.com and app.
"We discovered that something had happened but we didn't know what it was [on Wednesday evening]. So overnight, teams were trying to figure out the extent of the attack.
"The first thing was to find out if it was something serious and who it affected or not. The moment that actual customer data had been compromised, that's when we began immediate communication to our customers."
BA said all customers affected by the breach had been contacted on Thursday night. The breach only affects those people who bought tickets during the timeframe provided by BA, and not on other occasions.
Mr Cruz added: "At the moment, our number one purpose is contacting those customers that made those transactions to make sure they contact their credit card bank providers so they can follow their instructions on how to manage that breach of data."
The airline has taken out adverts apologising for the breach in Friday's newspapers.
BA data breach: What do you need to do?
By Simon Read, business reporter
What data was stolen?
BA says hackers stole names, email addresses and credit card information - that would be the credit card number, expiration date and the three digit code on the back of the credit card.
What could the hackers do with the data?
Once fraudsters have your personal information, they may be able to access your bank account, or open new accounts in your name, or use your details to make fraudulent purchases. They could also sell on your details to other crooks.
What do I need to do?
If you've been affected, you should change your online passwords. Then monitor your bank and credit card accounts keeping an eye out for any dodgy transactions. Also be very wary of any emails or calls asking for more information to help deal with the data breach: crooks often pose as police, banks or, in this instance they could pretend to be from BA.
Will my booking be affected?
BA says none of the bookings have been hit by the breach. It said it has contacted all those affected to alert them to the problem with their data, but booked flights should go ahead.
Will there be compensation for me?
If you suffer any financial loss or hardship, the airline has promised to compensate you.
BA customers have expressed their frustration with the airline on social media.
Mat Thomas said he placed a booking on 27 August, but had not been contacted about the breach.
"Atrocious that I had to find out about this via news and twitter," he tweeted.
"Called bank and had to cancel both mine and my wife's card. Probably won't get it back before we fly (ironically)."
Gemma Theobald tweeted: "My bank... are experiencing extremely high call volumes due to this breach! Couldn't do anything other than cancel my card... not how I wanted to spend my Thursday evening."
The company could potentially face fines from the Information Commissioner's Office, which is looking into the breach.
The National Crime Agency and National Cyber Security Centre confirmed they were assessing the incident.
Shares in BA owner IAG fell by 2.5% in early trade on Friday.
This is not the first customer relations problem to affect the airline in recent times.
In July, BA apologised after IT issues caused dozens of flights in and out of Heathrow Airport to be cancelled.
The month before, more than 2,000 BA passengers had their tickets cancelled because the prices were too cheap.
And in May 2017, serious problems with BA's IT systems led to thousands of passengers having their plans disrupted, after all flights from Heathrow and Gatwick were cancelled.
"It does not indicate that the information systems are the most robust in the airline industry," Simon Calder, travel editor at the Independent, told the BBC.
However, he does not think that BA will be affected in the long term by the breach.
"The airline has immense strength. Notably it's holding a majority of slots at Heathrow, and an enviable safety record, so while this is embarrassing and will potentially cost tens of millions of pounds to resolve, it's more like another flesh wound for BA, rather than anything serious."
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