Don’t Go Near T5

Coming back from the US to T5 on Sunday was awful beyond awful. We were three hours late leaving San Francisco, had to circle for 40 minutes before landing at Heathrow and, when we landed, the captain said: “We’ve landed at Heathrow which is in chaos”.

All the stands were full because there weren’t enough de-icing rigs, so planes stayed at the stands waiting for a rig. We had to wait 45 minutes on the tarmac before getting to a stand. The steward groaned. “Nothing will change until we change the management,” he said. He looked miserable. The steward’s opinion was reinforced next day by a letter in the FT from the general secretary of the British Airways Pilots Association saying T5’s problems were ‘symptomatic of BA’s loss of focus on delivering a sound operation’ and that ‘a fundamental change of attitude is required from the very highest levels of BA management’. When I finally got to T5’s baggage reclaim hall last Sunday, the electronic signs had all broken down so there was nothing to tell you which of the ten carousels had, or was going to have, your bag on it. Volunteer workers were there to help people, plus BA staff. A long queue waited to speak to the missing luggage staff. A girl in the queue was weeping. A man with a family looked totally distraught. A poor woman who’d been checked into an Edinburgh flight only to see it cancelled was trying to get her bag back. A BA staffer said he had no idea where it might be. I asked when the San Francisco bags would be coming through, and a BA lady said it could take two hours after landing because the mechanical belts had broken down, and the bags were being loaded onto the carousels by hand. I asked a BA staff guy what communications links he had with the baggage handlers and he said none. I suggested we ring BA’s executive offices to tell them that giving the baggage handlers a link to people inside the terminal would help provide information about when and where bags might come through. “No point”, he said, “they only work Monday to Friday, 9 to 5, in there.” And in a week when BA is going through one of its worst crisis in years. As Terry Thomas would have said: “What an absolute shower”. TOMORROW MORNING: TEN BEST MOBILE PHONES


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