Problems logging on to IT systems compounded security and staff car parking issues to create yesterday’s Heathrow Terminal 5 baggage fiasco, British Airways and BAA have confirmed.
Airport operator BAA told Computerworld UK, “The baggage system did not fail. The system is designed so that when it is full, it stops to the backlog can be cleared. Bags were on the system and not being taken off.”
But British Airways added that staff logon issues were also part of the problem. “The log on system initially didn’t work,” a BA spokesperson told Computerworld UK. “There was an issue with that for some reason.”
The airline said that “the car parking problems meant the staff were not in place.”
The high tech baggage system, was heavily featured in Terminal Five’s pre-opening publicity. Created through 400,000 man hours of software engineering, it was designed and supplied by Vanderlande Industries in conjunction with IBM technology and Alstec, who are operating the system.
The baggage handling issues were the second major set of IT-related problems to hit Terminal 5 yesterday, after airport operator BAA was forced at the last minute by the Information Commissioner’s Office to temporarily drop plans to fingerprint domestic passengers, over data protection concerns.
The embarrassing start to the opening yesterday of the £4.3 billion terminal, which also led to large numbers of flights being cancelled, forced BA chief executive Willie Walsh to publicly apologise to passengers.
Walsh admitted responsibility for the disastrous start at Terminal 5, stating: “the buck stops with me”.
He blamed the disruption on a number of areas, including car parks, airport areas, "computer glitches" and the failed baggage system. "In isolation, they would not have had the impact they did, but in combination they led to a level of disruption we never took control of during the day," he said.
"Both British Airways and BAA made mistakes," he said, but added that he took personal responsibility for the mistakes BA made.
The disruption is set continue over the weekend, he said, "but I think it will get better every day as we become accustomed to the building and the quirks of the systems".
BAA has claimed on the Terminal 5 website that passengers will be able to check in to flights in only 10 minutes.
T5 has 17 kilometres of baggage conveyor belts in a system designed to handle as many as 12,000 bags an hour, and the ability to prioritise late bags.
“The soaring glass walls and arching roof enhance the feeling of calm as you enter the concourse,” BA still proudly said on its T5 website today.