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Evening Standard 10-7-2008

1,000 bags are still going missing every DAY at T5

Dick Murray, Transport Editor

Tourists 'driven away' by Heathrow welcome

The full catalogue of errors that led to the shambolic opening of
Heathrow's new 4.3billion Terminal 5 can be revealed today.

Hundreds of flights were cancelled and tens of thousands of bags went
missing during a series of disasters on 27 March, which unions
claimed could have been avoided.


It comes amid revelations today that British Airways is still losing
almost 1,000 bags a day - in Terminal 5 alone - as passengers
transfer between flights.


Unite union said the airline was losing on average 932 bags daily
belonging to transfer passengers, with little end in sight.

National secretary Steve Turner said: "The system... is still
resulting in significant numbers of bags not being reunited with
passengers. It will happen today and it will happen tomorrow."

This amounts to around four per cent of transfer passengers regularly
losing their bags at Terminal 5.

The airline refused to confirm the number, claiming it did not
daily figures, but said the situation was improving.

A BA spokeswoman said: "Our baggage performance at Heathrow is
significantly better than it was this time last year. No airport or
airline in the world will ever have a perfect baggage performance but
T5 is already a great improvement on the way in which other terminals
work at Heathrow."

The latest revelations came as airport operator BAA presented a list
of shame to MPs at the Commons Transport Committee, detailing the
problems with the terminal's opening.

BAA chief executive Colin Matthews blamed many of T5's opening
problems on BA, amid revelations that staff had not been given proper

He said that although BAA "remains reluctant to engage in a blame
game" it puts much of the responsibility on BA, but admitted that BA
might have a "different viewpoint".

Mr Matthews revealed key talks between BA and BAA had broken down in
the final stages before the opening, and also blamed construction
overruns for the problems.

It also emerged that BA ground staff had not been given proper
training on new systems, and that bosses had made a massive
miscalculation in the number of staff who needing security checks.

Emergency contingency plans in case of problems were also given to
wrong people, meaning faults could not be rectified quickly on the

But union bosses immediately attacked BA and BAA, saying neither had
given any consideration to their views.

Mr Turner said: "British Airways and BAA were working together over
the opening but there was a complete failure to consult the trade

Mr Matthews said a number of key factors had since been introduced.
These included: improved monitoring of baggage-handling performance;
and speeding up staff through security.

BA said overall performance had significantly improved since the
opening of Terminal 5, but it admitted that staff training had not
been as effective as hoped. A BA spokesman said: "The final sets of
onsite training were, in hindsight, not as effective as they could
have been, as they were in part compromised by delays to the building

"Despite those building delays we still carried out more than 28,000
days of staf f training for our 6,500 Heathrow customer-services
staff in how the terminal would operate and new working practices."

Both BA and BAA said that lessons had been learned and the terminal
was now running much more smoothly.


* Communication between BA and BAA failed with no joint crisis plan
in place.

* Baggage system became gridlocked as staff checked in luggage
quicker than it was loaded onto planes.

* BA ground staff not trained on how to drive "jetties" - which
connect planes to the airport - leaving many stranded and without

* Contingency plans, including those to respond to baggage system
failures, were not given to the right people.

* Staff delayed at security points because there was up to 50 per
more employees than expected, exacerbated by the breakdown of an X-
ray security machine.

* Construction of T5 overran, leaving work still to be done after it

* BA ground staff not trained on new systems which led to delays in
directing planes to designated parking slots.

* Sixty employees were late on opening day because of troubles in
staff parking.

* Eight staff delayed in logging onto baggage system because of
faulty setup.

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