British Airways (BA) has announced its decision to delay until June the move of 120 long-haul flights to its new Terminal 5 at London Heathrow. It said that the delay will help the embattled carrier "to iron out" problems, including the baggage handling system. BA had planned to shift long-haul services from T4 to T5 on 5 April.
The carrier also announced its decision to sack two senior executives, who now appear to have been deemed responsible for the fiasco. The sacked executives are Gareth Kirkwood, director of operations at BA, and David Noyes, head of customer relations.
Kirkwood oversaw the shift to T5 and his responsibilities included the baggage handling operation that failed so comprehensively on the terminal's inaugural day of operations on 27 March. Noyes was also in charge of staff training for T5, but his performance came under a cloud when it emerged that some baggage handlers could not find their way around the terminal on their first day.
BA CEO, Willie Walsh, now takes personal charge of running the terminal.
T5's disastrous opening on 27 March resulted in a week of chaos, which saw more than 500 flights cancelled and a mountain of 30,000 bags piling up at the terminal.
"It is only sensible to ensure that Terminal 5 is operating consistently at a high standard before the move begins," CEO Willie Walsh said in a joint statement with airport operator BAA. "While a normal flight schedule has been operated at Terminal 5 since Tuesday, we want to ensure that customers can be confident of high service standards when additional flights are introduced."
The move to postpone shift of operations to T5 drew immediate fire from other airlines, including LHR's second-largest bmi. It issued a statement protesting the delay. "It is an absolutely outrageous announcement by BAA and done with no thought, consideration or consultation of any other airline other than BA," bmi CEO, Nigel Turner, said.
bmi claimed that the delay would affect more than 50 carriers.
BAA CEO Colin Matthews said the operator "regrets this postponement, and we recognize the impact it has on other airlines, but we believe it is a wise precaution." He conceded that "BAA fully recognizes that the inauguration of Terminal 5 has not been as smooth as we and BA would have wished.