A fifth of flights were cancelled from Heathrow Terminal 5 today (28 March) after yesterday's technical problems with the baggage system.
Airport owner BAA said the system¹s problems were "minor" and had now been resolved, but flight delays and cancellations have continued into a second day.
Baggage handlers experienced problems logging into the baggage system when the airport opened early on Thursday morning. According to reports, British Airways staff did not know how to use the terminal's new technology, which is more advanced than that found at most airports.
BA started to cancel services after seven flights left the airport with no luggage on board. Some customers slept at the airport after their flights were cancelled while others stayed in hotels. Many passengers arriving yesterday and today gave up on their luggage and left their details for staff to send it on.
"Staff were obviously extensively trained, but there were a number of issues, some of them technical, that caused problems for them. With a large-scale project like this, we just have to accept there is a human element that has to be taken into account," said an airline spokesman.
There were also delays at the staff car park, with some staff members not being able to get in. A BA spokesman said of the problems, "Any one of these on any other day would not have been significant enough to be disruptive. But cumulatively, these things just escalated."
The terminal building is designed around its technology, which includes a new BAA baggage system and self-service check-in kiosks.
British Airways, which has exclusive use of the building, hopes the new design and state-of-the-art technology will improve its track record on lost baggage. BAA said before the terminal opened that the increased space in the terminal building meant the baggage system would have room to operate properly. The system uses barcodes with hand-held scanners used to track each bag.
A BAA spokesperson said today, "Given the scale of the challenge over the past 48 hours, it was inevitable that we would face some difficulties. We are sorry for the inconvenience caused to passengers and are working tirelessly with British Airways to resolve these issues as quickly as possible."
British Airways said it is "extremely sorry" for inconvenience caused to customers. Staff were working through the night to solve the problems.
The airline said in a statement, "The problems yesterday were caused by a combination of factors that included delays at the staff car park and at security and log in problems for baggage handlers reporting for duty. These caused operational problems throughout the day associated with processing customers' baggage."
BAA had to pull its biometrics fingerprinting security system the day before the terminal opened, after the information commissioner raised concerns about data protection.