Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Baggage Delays As Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 Opens

Heathrow Airport's Terminal 5 opened to air passengers on schedule early in the morning of Thursday 27th March.

The first aircraft to land at the new £4.3 billion terminal, which is used exclusively by British Airways, was Flight BA026 from Hong Kong. The aircraft landed on time at 0450 GMT - and its pilot was Capt Lynn Barton, who back in 1987 made history as BA's first female airline pilot.

The first departure from the airport was at 0620 GMT with a flight to Paris.

However, the flagship terminal's opening day of operations was marred by significant baggage delays.

Despite BA Chief Executive Willie Walsh's message to the assembled media that Terminal 5 had a "state of the art baggage system", the airline confirmed towards midday on Thursday that this system was subject to delays.

Reports of delays began to surface during the morning. Passengers on a Frankfurt flight which arrived at 0830 GMT had to wait two hours to collect their belongings. One passenger on this flight, Jenny Uhl, commented: "The terminal looks nice, but the bag situation is not good".

Henrik Moeller, a businessman who had arrived from Hamburg in Germany, told assembled media reporters although his flight landed on schedule 0745 GMT but he did not receive his bags until 0900 GMT. He said: "It's obvious there have been teething problems".

BA made a public address announcement just before 11am saying that there were delays to baggage collection due to a technical problem. The airline also said that there were also issues with "staff familiarisation".

Both BA and the airport operator have admitted that it will take time for operations at such a large terminal to "bed down".

T5's opening day also saw several hundred anti-airport expansion campaigners and environmental groups a a peaceful "flash mob" protest outside the terminal. Wearing red T-shirts with the slogan "Stop Airport Expansion", one of the campaigners said their protest was "not not a demonstration against T5 so much as against what T5 means and that is extra flights, as many as 80,000 a year at Heathrow".
T5 Opening Marks New Era for Heathrow

Terminal 5, designed by eminent British architect Richard Rogers, was formally opened by HM The Queen earlier this month. Up to 30 million passengers will pass through the facility each year, with 12,000 bags an hour being processed.

Both BA and Heathrow's operator, the British Airports Authority (BAA), are hoping that T5's passenger facilities will help introduce a new era at Heathrow, and help to repair the airport's reputation as a crowded airport marred by delays. Earlier this week, a major consumer survey revealed international air passengers rate Heathrow poorly for making international connections.

Certainly, both parties have worked hard to develop high-quality retail and food facilities - there are over 112 shops and restaurants in the terminal.

Architect Rogers, who also designed the second terminal at Madrid-Barajas Airport in Spain that was opened in 2006, commented: "We wanted to make the experience of being in an airport exciting. We wanted to capture the spirit of travel. The greatest stations, whether it is New York or London, the 19th century stations did exactly that".

The opening of T5 means that the vast majority of BA flights to and from Heathrow will now be centralised on one terminal, instead of being spread around the airport's other four terminals.

All domestic BA flights to and from Heathrow have now moved to T5 from Terminal 1, as well as the long-haul services flown by the airline from T1.

At the end of April, most of BA's long-haul flights currently operated from Terminal 4 will be moved to T5. The only exceptions will be Singapore, Bangkok and Sydney, which will move from T4 to Terminal 3 early next year.

Other airlines will be changing terminals in line with the consolidation of BA services onto T5. As previously reported by this website, flights at the other four terminals will now be organised according to which alliance airlines belong.
Terminal 5 Security Fingerprinting Plan On Hold

Meanwhile, the plan by BAA to collect fingerprints from passengers using T5 as part of the terminal's security suite has been put on hold.

As reported ealier this week on Airport International the UK's privacy watchdog, the Information Commissioner's Office, said BAA's plan to collect four fingerprints from all domestic passengers using T5 and those international passengers transferring onto domestic flights, could be illegal due to breaking clauses in the Data Protection Act.

Now, BAA has climbed down. A spokesman for the company said: "Following a meeting with all relevant parties, including the Information Commissioner and the Border and Immigration Agency, the introduction of fingerprinting for domestic passengers and international passengers transferring on to domestic flights at Heathrow will be temporarily delayed".

Further discussions between authorities to establish the legality of the plan will now take place. BAA insists that despite the postponement, it still wishes to introduce the plans.

Source - Airport International's London Reporter

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