Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Baggage System 'Working' at Heathrow Airport's Terminal 5

British Airways has said that the baggage handling system at Heathrow Airport's Terminal 5 is now "working".

The announcement by the airline's chief executive, Willie Walsh, follows a chaotic few days at the brand new terminal building.

As reported extensively by this website, since the terminal opened on Thursday 27th March there have been major technical difficulties with the terminal's baggage handling system - which led to thousands of bags being stranded across the five terminals at Heathrow, and significant flight cancellations and delays.

Walsh said over 400 volunteers were working to clear the baggage backlog. He said the baggage system was now "working well", and that "we are making every effort to reunite bags with their owners".

However, a government statement issued to the House of Commons from the Department of Transport on Monday afternoon said some passengers could face up to a week's delay in being reunited with their bags. Jim Fitzpatrick, the Transport Minister, said that over 28,000 bags were now backed-up at Heathrow - higher than the 15,000 figure quoted originally.

BA said the affected bags belonged to passengers who had already used the airport, and that it "is not affecting the day-to-day operation of the baggage system".

The airline's boss once again gave profuse apologies to passengers caught up in the delays, saying: "the service we provided has not been good enough".

Walsh said that engineering and IT teams from BA and airport operator the British Airports Authority (BAA), were continuing to work on the technical problem which has been the major cause of the delays.
He admitted that the six-month trial of the baggage system had not revealed the specific problem that had caused the delays.
Terminal Five Cancellations Latest

BA announced that on Monday 31st March the airline will be operating "87% of the T5 schedule", meaning 54 flights would be cancelled. The same number will be cancelled tomorrow, Tuesday 1st April.

As in the last few days, the flight cancellations affect short-haul flights. BA said no long-haul flights from
BA says it hopes to "progressively" introduce flights throughout this week as the situation eases, with a full programme of flights being launched.

Airport International advises passengers using T5 to check the BAA Heathrow website or the British Airways website ( to keep up to date with the latest flight information details.

Reports in UK newspapers suggest that the delays could have cost BA up to £20 million ($40 million) over the last four days.

Mr Walsh was still confident that the embarrassments suffered by BA in the last few days would be "overcome", and that "the terminal will be highly valued by customers in the near future and for many years to come".

He said: "We are sorry for the disruption and inconvenience caused to customers whose flights have been cancelled or whose bags have been delayed. We will not rest until our service has been restored to the high standard customers rightly expect".
Heathrow T5 Criticism Continues

As would be expected, criticism of Terminal 5 has been wide-ranging and severe among commentators in the UK media over the weekend.

Politicians have also weighed in with their views. David Davis, the Conservative Party's Shadow Home Secretary, said Terminal 5 was "a dreadful national embarrassment". Chris Huhne, Home Affairs Spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, said the last few days had proven to be an "incredible shambles".

The government, meanwhile, said on Monday afternoon that although the operation of T5 was an issue for BA and BAA, it was "monitoring the situation" and would be "ready to assist" if BA and BAA were unable to solve the baggage situation at T5 this week. Transport Minister Jim Fitzpatrick admitted that "national pride had been dented".

Ruth Kelly, the Transport Secretary, said: "Everything possible must be done to deliver a better service for passengers who are unfortunately still facing disruption and delays to their journeys".

Source - Airport International's London Reporter

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