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Insta-CoGo: Heathrow's New Terminal Woes

Cindy Loose

Last summer, when CoGo was inundated with complaints from travelers whose bags had been lost during transfers at Heathrow, British Airways said: Never fear, just wait until the new Terminal 5 opens and all will be well.

Well, Terminal 5 at Heathrow opened last Thursday, and all hell broke loose. In fact, British Airways was so flummoxed that it has canceled at least 299 flights since opening, and expects to cancel 52 of 392 scheduled flights today, according to reports.

The chaotic opening of Heathrow Airport's new terminal had many hoping the 300-plus delays were just a bad dream. (Luke MacGregor/Reuters)

The new high-tech baggage system shut down completely the first day. Long lines plagued check-in counters, security checkpoints and baggage pick-up areas. British Airway's CEO apologized, and officials who operate the terminal dedicated to BA promised it would focus all of its efforts on fixing the problems at Terminal 5. Other terminals at Heathrow were reportedly operating as normal.

Late yesterday, this note remained on the airport's Web site: "A number of BA flights operating from Terminal 5 are subject to delay or cancellation. If you are travelling from Terminal 5, please call 0800 727 800 or visit for more information before departing for the airport. All flights from other terminals are operating as normal, including BA flights not operating from Terminal 5."

Meanwhile, the airline says it has misplaced about 29,000 bags at Heathrow since opening the new terminal, and it might take a long time to reunite them with their owners. The bags need to be rescreened -- and to be rescreened, they have to be taken from Terminal 5 to a terminal with an operating system, which of course is quite likely busy with other luggage.

If you happen to be flying British Airways into Heathrow any time soon, best CoGo can tell you: If possible, pack so lightly that you don't have to check any luggage. Also, if you flight is canceled and you're delayed overnight, don't allow the airline to try to buy you off with $200, as it has tried to do with other passengers. EU law demands that when flights are canceled and passengers are adrift overnight, the airline has to pay whatever it costs to put you up and feed you.

Anyone want to bet how long it will take to fix things? Or have a firsthand report?

(To take a look at last Sunday's Coming & Going column -- or CoGo -- here's the link.)

By Cindy Loose |  April 1, 2008; 6:51 AM ET  | Category:  Airports , Cindy Loose , Europe , Insta-CoGo
Previous: Clear Lane: A Clarification (and Apology) | Next: Insta-CoGo: Fees, Fees and More Fees on Delta

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Note that flights from Dulles are still going into Terminal 4 until the end of April. That's small solace since T4's baggage-handling isn't any better.

Posted by: Rich | April 1, 2008 9:11 AM

If memory serves, United's automated baggage handling in Denver had similar issues when that new airport first opened.

Posted by: Tom T. | April 1, 2008 1:51 PM

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