Heathrow T5 opening 'an embarrassment'

The chaotic opening of Terminal 5 (T5) at London's Heathrow Airport revealed "serious failings" on the part of British Airways and airport operator BAA and was "a national embarrassment", a report from MPs has said.

The shambles, which saw flights cancelled, bags going astray and long queues, "could, and should, have been avoided through better preparation and more effective joint working", the report from the House of Commons Transport Committee added.

"What should have been an occasion of national pride was in fact an occasion of national embarrassment," said the committee's chairman Louise Ellman MP.

The committee said that when the £4.3bn terminal opened in March this year there were a number of problems, most of which were caused by insufficient communication between BA and BAA and poor staff training and system-testing by BA.
On the first day of opening - 27 March - a total of 36,584 passengers "were frustrated by the 'Heathrow hassle' that T5 had been designed to eliminate", the report said.

MPs said they were astonished that the idea of having joint meetings between BAA and BA had only occurred as an afterthought, once things had started going wrong.

The committee held two evidence sessions looking into the T5 debacle. At the first - on 7 May - those appearing for BAA were its chairman Sir Nigel Rudd and chief executive Colin Matthews.

Monday's report said: "We were concerned that during our first evidence session, representatives from BAA were unhelpful and ill-prepared. They provided us with no satisfactory explanation as to how this national embarrassment had been allowed to unfold."

The committee said it noted the Competition Commission's provisional report on UK airport ownership which recommends the sale of some BAA airports.

Saying they noted the commission's report, the transport committee members said today: "This reinforces the view we have previously expressed, that BAA is a monopoly that needs to be broken up."

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