Quick Thought on London/Heathrow T5

BA moved in to the brand-spanking new Terminal 5 at Heathrow today, and it didn’t take long for the baggage system to fail. Looks like they stopped accepting checked bags and won’t start again until Friday morning.

I guess they didn’t want to shock travelers by having a baggage system that actually worked right away. That would have been too big of a change from the previous setup, so they must be easing people into it. Hopefully that’ll happen soon, but if you can avoid checking bags for the next few days, do it.

20 Responses to Quick Thought on London/Heathrow T5

  1. J. McCarthy says:

    Another quick thought: next time you’re flying transatlantic fly Silverjet from Luton or Eos from Stansted or anyone from anywhere except Heathrow.

  2. Cranky, either your sarcasm is rubbing off on me or it is just the cycle of the moon?

  3. Alex C says:

    Cranky, I share your hatred of everything about Heathrow.

    Money quote (bolding mine):
    “We always knew the first day would represent a unique challenge because of the size and complexity of the move into Terminal 5. We are working extremely hard on solutions to these short term difficulties.”

    Clearly moving BA alone from one end of LHR to the other was much more complicated than, say, moving every Star Alliance carrier at NRT into a newly renovated terminal. A unique challenge indeed.

  4. Greg Royal says:

    For all it’s faults Heathrow is an iconic airport. It is like it’s own world. I travel 8-9 times a year through Heathrow and I always enjoy passing through. It’s like that strange quirky uncle that everybody tolerates.

    Thank God we don’t have uniformly bland airports like DFW et al but there are airports like LHR to visit.

  5. Personally I blame BAA – useless money-focussed and about as un-customer centred as yo could get…
    http://www.travelblather.com/2008/03/chaos-at-heathr.html

  6. kt74 says:

    Hmmm… My hypothesis (not proven, pure speculation) is that the current fiasco has got nothing to do with BAA or T5 infrastructure or BA’s “systems” or training per se… Hear my theory…

    It’s a well known fact that BA’s Heathrow baggage handlers are a bunch so militant that they make US airline pilots look like free market concessionists. They have been on strike every other year since time in memoriam for whatever reason (generally to protect their travel perks, which of course would disappear if the whole lot of them were outsourced, as I’m sure every BA management team has wanted to do for the last 20 years). Incidentally, these are the same baggage handlers that are married (literally) to the women workers in Gate Gourmet who strike on alternate years (given the baggage handlers an excuse to come out in sympathy – well, they wouldn’t want to miss out, would they?)

    The theory was that T5 would see the end of baggage handlers, or at least a significant reduction in numbers, since *almost* everything would be automated – that’s the real reason why the 757s to Spain, Nice and Helsinki are staying at T3 – baggage ain’t pallet-ised, so can’t be loaded automatically

    I say *almost* because at the end of the day, you can automate 95% of the schlepping of suitcases about the airport, but someone has fill the pallets. And we know that’s what went wrong
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7318337.stm

    In particular:
    http://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/media/images/44521000/jpg/_44521129_t5_luggage_system416.jpg

    My theory… This has got nothing to do with systems or training or not having enough people. This is the bloody minded baggage handlers reminding Willie Walsh who’s really boss

  7. Brandon says:

    Yesterday there were a few posts on airliners.net about the chaos at T5, the reports also indicated that parts of the terminal are still a little rough around the edges.

    Back when YYZ opened T1New and shifted Star Alliance and several other carriers around they has extensive testing done. I took part in all of the trial runs whre every facet of the terminal was tested and neumerous tests of the baggage handeling system were conducted.

  8. CF says:

    All interesting theories here. I would have thought that BA would have said if it was specifically due to baggage handler actions, but maybe we just haven’t heard everything yet. Very interesting.

    Alex C – Believe it or not, I don’t really hate Heathrow. I mean, sure it’s a pain, but like Greg Royal says, it’s an iconic airport. I haven’t checked bags there in years, but it’s always the beginning of an exciting trip when I land at the airport in one of my favorite cities on earth.

    It’s like LAX. I know it’s a dump in a lot of ways, but I grew up with it, and I still love it.

  9. CF says:

    kt74 – Read this article. It doesn’t look like baggage handler action if this is all true. In fact, I would hate to be a baggage handler if this is what I had to deal with.

  10. kt74 says:

    Thanks CF. Now, I hate to be a cynic, but the Evening Standard and the Daily Mail (from which ThisisLondon sources its news) have not always been known to place substantiated facts in the way of a sensational story. And the current, more conciliatory BA management may just be being cautious before aportioning blame to baggage handlers… plus the fact that BA’s PR agency needs firing

    Look, the blame probably sits a bit with each of BA, BAA and the handlers, but there’s teething problems, and there’s trying to muck in and do the job. Ergo, if baggage needs moving, the logical thing to do is to move it, rather than, err, forget your password for the clocking in system and give up… The main Flyertalk thread has many pages of interesting comments. As one poster puts it, “there are equipment failures, and equipment FAILURES”. Any excuse for a union-encouraged go-slow, eh?!

    http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/showthread.php?t=805647

  11. For more info on the mexx, see my oist at http://travel-babel.blogspot.com/2008/03/heathrows-erminal.html FWIW, lct74, the ‘Telegraph’ reported that the computer system was at fault for the fiasco.

  12. Rory says:

    It seems BA, rather than BAA, is continuing to dig itself deeper and deepeer into a hole over Heathrow. We’ve been covering this fairly indepthly over on Lost Weekend, being UK based, and BA’s PR blunders seem to know no bounds.

    I’ve just read that the airline has lost the Serbian foreign ministers bags, oops, while telling him, and passengers, that it might take weeks to find them. Meanwhile, the UK transport minister is MIA.

    While there is plenty of comic value to this debacle, for us in the UK it’s rapidly turning into a matter of waking up at the front of the classroom with your pants around your ankles.

  13. CF says:

    It’s true, they’ve been doing a fine job over at Lost Weekend. I particularly enjoyed the piece asking, “Could monkeys do a better job of running British Airways?

  14. Rory says:

    Thanks CF. Although I don’t think I can face anymore Heathrow posts. Apparently they’ve packed all that luggage off to Milan. I mean, for the love of god.

  15. Simon says:

    I took part in some of the trials for LHR (they had about 10000 “passengers” over the 4 months before opening. I also have a friend who works for BA who knew this would happen. I think it’s a combination of the baggage handler issue identified here, BA senior management relying too much on crossed fingers, and BAA abusing its position over BA by not making some design changes that were needed. (As an aside, where have BAA been this week? Willie W has taken all the flack, but I have not heard a peep out of BAA who must be as much to blame.)
    And sending bags to Milan makes sense if thats the best place for courier firms to get them to European destinations…
    I also think that the day when they run 100% of services is months away…

  16. CF says:

    Simon – Good question. Where is BAA? Of course, BA will have to take the flack publicly, because that’s who the customers see, but there’s no doubt BAA has their hands in this.

    As for Milan . . . well now that Alitalia has pulled down that hub, there’s plenty of room to dump bags there. Hah.

  17. Mike says:

    God, Heathrow is the most awful airport in the developed world. BA and BAA should hang their heads in shame. I hate having to travel through the place and am dreading my first trip through T5.

    One of the worst things about the place is the cabbies who do anything to put you off getting in their cab unless you are going all the way into town so they get a big fare. I had one swear at me once when i told him I wanted to go to BAA HQ on Bath Road.

    When is a government going to stop throwing good money after bad at this place and realise it’s time for a new 21st century airport out in the Thames Estuary?

  18. Pingback: Poor start to Heathrow T5 opening - Musings of The Global Traveller

  19. lukebrown says:

    Heathrow is the most awful airport in the developed world.
    About 100 million passengers went through Heathrow, Gatwick, or Stansted through October. That’s more than half of the entire country’s air traffic.
    A full 20 percent of the traffic at Gatwick is charter. That’s the largest charter airport in the UK.

  20. lukebrown says:

    Heathrow is the most awful airport in the developed world.
    About 100 million passengers went through Heathrow, Gatwick, or Stansted through October. That’s more than half of the entire country’s air traffic.
    A full 20 percent of the traffic at Gatwick is charter. That’s the largest charter airport in the UK.visit crystaltravel.co.uk for Cheap Flights

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