Wednesday, October 28, 2009

BA Chief Executive in Heathrow Terminal 5 Apology

Willie Walsh, Chief Executive of British Airways, has referred to Heathrow Airport Terminal 5’s first day of business as “not our finest hour”.

The opening day saw chaos erupt as a suspension was placed on hold-luggage, 34 flights were cancelled and waits of up to four hours were experienced in baggage reclaim.

Today, 36 flights have been cancelled. Additional cancellations are anticipated to be made in the hours to come.

British Airways’ Reputation

Walsh conceded that the situation had had an effect both on British Airways’ reputation, and on the nation at large.

“We clearly disappointed a number of people and we sincerely apologise", he said.

The disruption, he said, had its source in a “combination of factors” that the airline had not been able to “get on top of”.

"British Airways has not delivered and we need to deliver," he asserted.

"I am accepting responsibility, the buck stops with me."

"Today has started much better...[but] at this stage I still expect some cancellations tomorrow".
Terminal 5 Check-in Restrictions Lifted

British Airways' website details how, in respect of departing services on the 28th March, 36 had been cancelled. However, the check-in restrictions have been lifted.

Other issues that emerged during Heathrow Terminal 5’s opening day included what BA termed “initial teething problems” in respect of car parking spaces, as well as staff unfamiliarity.

Speaking to the BBC, one baggage worker described how what should have been a glorious occasion "turned into a shambles the moment the doors opened".

He continued: "BA claimed 'staff familiarisation' was to blame. The staff, however, would blame the lack of training and the essential support that was promised.

"During the inadequate training days prior to the opening, any staff questions were bounced back with 'I don't know' and 'It will be clear on the day'.

"Staff signage is non-existent and quite frankly, how are we expected to help customers if we are not helped first?"

As far as the British Chamber of Commerce’s director general, David Frost, was concerned, the situation had issued “businesses around the world” with a “depressing message”.

"This is a PR disaster at a time when London and the UK are positioning themselves as global players”, he said.

“We can only hope that this will provide a wake-up call as we gear ourselves up to host the Olympics in 2012."

Source – Airport International’s London Reporter

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