Can't find what you're looking for? Try Google Search.

BA cancels flights in continuing Heathrow T5 chaos

British Airways Plc cancelled a fifth of flights from its new $8.6 billion terminal at London's Heathrow airport on Friday as chaos from its shambolic opening spilled into a second day.

Baggage remains at a closed check-in desk at the new Terminal 5 building at Heathrow Airport in London March 27, 2008. British Airways Plc cancelled a fifth of flights from its new $8.6 billion terminal at Heathrow airport on Friday as chaos from its shambolic opening spilled into a second day. (REUTERS/Luke MacGregor)

BA said it dropped the short-haul flights to "create more capacity" as it attempted to recover from the mess left by Thursday's opening when nearly 70 flights were cancelled, leaving passengers distraught.

Chief Executive Willie Walsh warned travellers that problems could persist into the weekend.

"I would expect some disruption tomorrow (Saturday), but I think it will get better every day as we become accustomed to the building and the quirks of the systems," he said.

"Yesterday was definitely not British Airways' finest hour," he said. "There were problems in the car parks, airport areas, computer glitches and the baggage system."

Baggage-handling and check-in problems at Heathrow's much-vaunted fifth terminal (T5) provoked a public relations disaster for the carrier that once styled itself the "world's favourite airline" -- and weighed on its shares.

BA fell more than 3 percent on Friday, hit by the T5 chaos and jitters ahead of Sunday's start of the "open skies" deal to create greater competition on trans-Atlantic routes.

"I don't think it will be material, but it's certainly bad for sentiment and not good for the BA brand," BlueOar Securities analyst Douglas McNeill said. "You'd need several days of severe disruption to really impinge on BA's financial performance."


BA's rivals, which resent Spanish-owned airport operator BAA gifting BA its own dedicated terminal, were quick to capitalise.

"Terminal 1, which now has 40 percent less passengers to accommodate following BA's move to Terminal 5, is running like clockwork," said bmi, BA's main competitor at Heathrow.

Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic said 200 BA passengers had already switched across to longhaul Virgin flights because of the problems.

"Our daily Dubai and Hong Kong services have seen the largest switch, with many more BA passengers expected to move across in the next few days," said spokesman Paul Charles.

The open-plan T5 is Britain's largest enclosed space, equivalent to the size of about 50 soccer pitches. It was touted as the answer to the delays passengers can face at the other four terminals at the world's third-busiest airport.

As opposed to Thursday, when some passengers were told they could only check in hand luggage and some flights left with no luggage in the hold at all, British Airways said customers could now check in both hand and hold luggage.

Some stranded passengers -- many of whom publicly denounced the airline -- spent the night in the gleaming terminal, reluctant to pay for nearby hotels even though BA, which is using T5 exclusively, had promised to reimburse them.

"I am very sorry that the problems have meant that some of our customers did not experience the true potential of this amazing new building," Walsh said.

British Airways spent months promoting the gleaming Richard Rogers-designed terminal, packed with high-end shops and restaurants, bringing photographers and journalists from all over the world to London to show off the complex.

No comments: