Terminal 5 is a national disgrace

The continued flight cancellations and delays at London Heathrow’s new Terminal 5 has been little more than a national disgrace, making both the BAA and British Airways a laughing stock in the minds of both foreign and domestic passengers.

Some 200 flights in and out of Terminal 5 were cancelled in its first three days of operations and a backlog of over 15,000 passenger bags had built up, as passengers were told to travel with hand luggage only. Delays in excess of five hours were also commonplace and many flights departed with no hold luggage loaded.

A further 54 flights were expected to be scrapped today (31 March) as the airline struggles to come to grips with the collapse of the new baggage system at the terminal and the security problems that blighted the commencement of operations.

The impact on British Airways World Cargo has been minor compared to the passenger disruption. “The cancellation of shorthaul passenger flights from Terminal 5 has had a limited impact on customers of BA World Cargo. So far there have been just two flights per day cancelled from the cargo schedule. However we apologise to any cargo customers who have been disrupted as a result of the operational difficulties since Terminal 5 opened on Thursday March 27th. We are working closely with our customers to ensure efficient recovery of any delayed cargo,” said a BAWC spokesperson.

BA’s response to the chaos has also received criticism. Passengers delayed overnight were told they could only claim £100 for hotel accommodation, apparently in breach of EU rules. The scale of the problems also seemed incomprehensible to BA’s management and the situation has degenerated into a public relations disaster.

BA’s chief executive Willie Walsh, somewhat belatedly finally owned up to the disaster, admitting that it was “not BA’s finest hour” and that “the buck stops with me”.

Director of operations, Gareth Kirkwood, did little to reassure passengers reading a short pre-written statement, and refusing to answer any media questions.

The Conservative party, the official government opposition in the UK, have called for an inquiry into the “chaos and confusion”, with Shadow Home Secretary David Davis calling the situation “a dreadful national embarrassment”.

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