BAA’s £4.3 billion Heathrow T5 officially opened for business yesterday, but problems with baggage handling systems have led to disruption and delays.
'Teething problems' with baggage systems at the new terminal led to a total of 68 short-haul and domestic flights (34 inbound and 34 outbound) being cancelled on the opening day, with the same number facing the axe today. This equates to 20 per cent of all daily flights at the terminal, although BA says that all long-haul flights will operate.
Several flights took off yesterday without luggage on board due to the system fault, and at one stage all luggage check-in was suspended. To add to disruption the terminal also faced a “flash mob” protest against Heathrow. BA blamed the problems on delays at the staff car park and at security, and log in problems for baggage handlers reporting for duty. Passengers are advised to check ba.com for the latest flight information.
The first flight into T5 was BA026 from Hong Kong, arriving at 0450, with the first departure being flight BA302 bound for Paris at 0620. Once the disruption settles British Airways will serve 70 per cent of its Heathrow flights from T5, including all short-haul flights previously departing from T4, and all long-haul flights which had operated from T1. On April 30 a second stage will see T4 long-haul flights (with a few exceptions) moving to T5.
In other news, BAA has dropped plans to fingerprint domestic passengers at T5. The operator had wanted to fingerprint these passengers to make it impossible for a passenger to arrive into T5 on a transit flight, exchange boarding passes with another traveller in the common departure lounge, and board a domestic flight to enter the UK without being checked by immigration authorities.
But the plans have been put on hold as BAA has been warned such practices may breach data protection laws, even though prints are immediately encrypted, and destroyed after 24 hours.
For more information visit baa.com, and for a comprehensive look at T5 see the April edition of Business Traveller.
Report by Mark Caswell