The launch of British Airways’ Heathrow Terminal 5 last Thursday was a shambles.
‘A national embarrassment’, ‘fiasco’ and ‘never flying British Airways again’ were just some of the comments the new terminal’s opening inspired.
By Thursday of this week, BA had cancelled a total of 430 flights at Terminal 5. Even worse, it is still sorting through a backlog of at least 20,000 bags that missed flights from Heathrow.
Thousands of these bags are being sent to Milan for sorting, apparently to a contractor that will courier them to destinations all over Europe. Although it takes longer to reach Milan by lorry, the bag transfer can be quicker than by air because the luggage will not have to wait to be screened.
However, many holiday-makers will not be reunited with their luggage before they return from holiday. BA has even asked customers to update them with any address change – as if people don’t have enough to think about when they’re moving house!
What is particularly worrying is how such a huge catastrophe built up from small, but crucial details. For a start, Terminal 5 staff could not even reach their posts first thing that fateful Thursday morning, due to poor signage on the roads and not enough space in nearby car parks.
They then faced problems getting airside, thanks to a lack of security staff at the checkpoints. Once in the terminal, many staff struggled to get around, due to the unfamiliarity of the building and systems they were using.
This boils down to staff training and support – clearly a vital component for any major move such as this. BA now faces a further problem of low staff morale. I wonder how long it will take to reverse this situation.
How many passengers were caught short by T5 by booking their flight direct and not through a travel agent, who could have helped steer them through this mess?
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