UK travel agents expressed shock over the chaos at Terminal 5, but said it highlighted the value of booking through the trade.

The majority of passengers delayed or separated from their baggage had booked direct with British Airways.

Travel agencies handling substantial BA business switched to crisis mode, while others congratulated themselves on directing passengers away from the carrier.

Advantage director of business travel Norman Gage said: “Agents get nothing at all from BA for refunding the client and issuing a new ticket.

“But it proves the benefit of booking with an agent. If people book themselves they are on their own.”

ABTA said members had been inundated with calls, yet reported no queries to its helpline. “Agents have taken this in their stride,” said a spokeswoman.

Worldchoice member Chris Bailey of Bailey’s Travel had few clients affected. “We try not to do anything with BA,” he said. “There are plenty of other carriers out there.”

However, Bailey expressed concern at the wider impact. “It does not show the industry in a good light. Everybody suffers if people become averse to travelling.”

Travel management company Hogg Robinson Group had warned of problems the day before the opening, advising passengers to leave extra time to pass through the terminal.

Group industry affairs director Mike Platt said: “We expect possible delays and strongly advise business travellers to factor this in.”

Gage said agents would switch clients to other airlines wherever possible, but added: “It is pointless double-booking someone if the flight then goes.”

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