Bosses at British Airways and BAA will be grilled by MPs over the technical problems at Heathrow's Terminal Five, after the Transport Select Committee announced an inquiry into the building's problematic opening.
Just a few hours after the terminal opened on March 27, the baggage system started experiencing problems. BA cancelled
hundreds of flights as a mountain of lost luggage grew and thousands of passengers had to leave without their bags.
Both British Airways, which has exclusive use of the terminal, and Heathrow owner BAA, have not given details of the issues behind the problems. But MPs on the select committee say they hope the inquiry, on May 7, will show exactly what happened.
"There has been all sorts of speculation about why it went so wrong, and hopefully the inquiry will shed some light on that," said committee member Clive Efford.
Another member, Lee Scott, said, "Obviously something went drastically wrong, and we need to work out whether it was IT or other aspects."
British Airways has faced accusations that the terminal was understaffed, because of the necessity of keeping baggage handlers at terminals one and four at the same time. But the airline said the plan was always to "do a gradual move" with most long haul flights staying at Terminal 4 for the time being.
Keith Bill, from the British Airline Pilots' Association, said, "The management took its eye off the ball.
Undoubtedly both BA and BAA were at fault."
Clive Efford said the committee will question executives on a "whole range of issues" including whether there were sufficient staff, whether the security vetting systems were too slow to get staff into their places at the right time, whether the capacity of the system was appropriate, and whether there were enough trials.
Gary Pearce, officer at union GMB, represents some of the check-in staff at Terminal 5. He said, "They haven't been told exactly what caused the problems. The main issue for them was that they had to deal with angry passengers taking their frustration out on them."