British Airways says it has had to revert to its old baggage handling system at Heathrow following yesterday's fiasco at Terminal 4.
According to reports in the Daily Mirror, thousands of arriving passengers faced delays of up to two hours in the baggage reclaim hall after a new [baggage handling] computer trial caused chaos. Some passengers, those with urgent appointments or train connections to make, simply gave up waiting for their luggage and left the airport.
It seems the fiasco was triggered by a new "resource management system" for baggage handling which BA is adopting at Heathrow in preparation for its move to Terminal 5 in April 2008.
It isn't the first time BA passengers have suffered problems, however. Many readers of this magazine have seen their baggage lost and been delayed by strikes, bad weather and, more recently, by trials in preparation for the move to T5 next year. So is British Airways treating its Heathrow passengers as guinea pigs?
A BA spokesman vehemently denied this was the case. "This new system [at T4] is already used in other areas of BA and is designed to ensure that the right teams are put in place at the right times."
BA claims that "On a normal day the new system wouldn't have caused problems, but yesterday morning Customs decided they wanted to search bags on two flights arriving from Lagos and Accra and this tied up our resources and baggage teams. It meant the new system couldn't work so we switched it off and reverted to the old one. Today we are continuing to use the old system at T4 and will only re-instate the new one when we feel it's the right time."
At Heathrow this morning BA says that "we have had a good start to the day." Let's hope it stays that way.
Report by Alex McWhirter