|British Airways cancelled a fifth of flights from its new $8,6-billion terminal five (T5) at Heathrow on Friday as the chaos from its shambolic opening spilled into a second day.
The airline said it was dropping the short-haul flights to “create more capacity” as it tried to get back on top of the mess left by Thursday’s opening when nearly 70 flights were cancelled, leaving passengers distraught.
BA chief executive Willie Walsh warned problems could persist into the weekend.
“We are going to assess it as we go through today [Friday]. At this stage, I would expect that we will have some cancellations tomorrow,” he told BBC television.
“We got off to a very bad start yesterday. I don’t think we ever got on top of the issues and got control of the situation.”
Baggage-handling and check-in problems at the much-vaunted T5 have provoked a public relations disaster for the carrier that once styled itself the “world’s favourite airline” — and weighed on its shares.
BA fell more than 3% on Friday, hit by the T5 chaos and jitters ahead of Sunday’s start of an “open skies” deal to create greater competition on trans-Atlantic routes.
“There will be some costs associated with the (Terminal Five) problems,” said BlueOar Securities analyst Douglas McNeill. “I don’t think it will be material, but it’s certainly bad for sentiment and not good for the BA brand.”
“Open skies is a negative. Supply-side liberalisation leads to lower prices in any industry,” he added.
‘Amazing new building’
As opposed to Thursday, when some passengers were told that they could only check in hand luggage and some flights left with no luggage in the hold at all, British Airways said customers could now check in both hand and hold luggage.
Some stranded passengers — many of whom publicly denounced the airline — spent the night in the gleaming terminal, reluctant to pay for nearby hotels even though BA, which is using terminal five exclusively, had promised to reimburse them.
“I am very sorry that the problems have meant that some of our customers did not experience the true potential of this amazing new building,” Walsh said in a statement.
British Airways spent months promoting the gleaming Richard Rogers-designed terminal, packed with high-end shops and restaurants, bringing photographers and journalists from all over the world to London to show off the complex.