Next time you’re cursing the abysmal luggage handling at Pearson, this analysis of the opening of Heathrow’s Terminal 5 may help put things into perspective. It began with baggage handling staff turning up late for their shift because they were unable to find parking places, and got worse from there:
Once into the baggage sorting area, some staff were unable to log on to the computer system, which caused three flights to “cut and run” and fly off without bags – creating the first backlog of the day.
Simultaneously BA baggage teams struggled immediately with an automated system that, via handheld devices, told them which flight to unload and which flight to put bags onto. According to staff, the devices told handlers to sort bags for flights that were already cancelled. This meant they turned up to load flights that were not there while, in other parts of the sorting area, bags piled up unattended.
Human error also played a role. As did a lack of essential equipment:
Throughout early morning and afternoon, two overarching factors contributed to the delays. According to industry sources, some baggage teams were disorientated despite months of training and were late turning up at loading areas, which are spaced around the cavernous baggage area. Plus, there was a shortage of special storage bins that all bags must be put in before going onto planes – a new requirement for T5.
Eventually, it was all too much
At 4pm a wave of passengers came to Terminal 5’s departure hall and checked-in bags that were delivered by a lift system to the main conveyor belt area on the ground floor.
The conveyor belt system could not physically function within one hour and ground to a halt as bags jammed the entire handling network. Minutes later BA suspended all baggage check-in. It was, according to one observer, “literally a case of the baggage computers saying ‘No”‘.
And British Airways’ woes don’t end there — they may have to pay a fine of up to 5,000 pounds per passenger in fines for misleading stranded passengers about their compensation rights under European Commission rules. As well,
There were also concerns on the impact of the “open skies” policy which comes in tomorrow.