British Airways is to move more long-haul flights into Heathrow’s Terminal 5 in early June – the first since the disastrous opening of the facility six weeks ago.
The move will be a critical test of the airport’s ability to cope with a fresh influx of passengers and baggage into T5. It will include the transfer of BA’s most important long-haul route – Heathrow to New York JFK, with eight daily departures.
BA, the sole tenant of T5, and BAA, the airport operator, said in a joint statement that flights to and from eight more long-haul destinations would be transferred from Terminal 4 to T5 on June 5.
The services include daily flights to Abuja, Bangalore, Beijing, Cairo, Cape Town, Lagos and Phoenix and account for a quarter of the airline’s long-haul schedule at T4. Seven long-haul destinations are already at T5, including Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Tokyo.
Nearly all of the T4 ser-vices were due to have been transferred to T5 on April 30, but BA was forced to abandon the plan after the chaotic opening of its initial T5 operations on March 27.
The airline has decided to split the transfer of 120 daily flights (departures and arrivals) from T4 to T5 into several phases running from June to October.
Colin Matthews, BAA chief executive, said the transfer of the remaining 90 flights would be completed “as soon as is practicable”. The T4 flights account for about 30 per cent of the total BA flights to be transferred to T5 but for about 50 per cent of the passengers and bags.
The opening day debacle and subsequent problems led to the cancellation of more than 500 BA flights, stranding thousands of passengers and leading to 23,000 misplaced bags.
MPs investigating the T5 opening said this week the event had been a “national humiliation”.
Both BA and BAA told MPs the terminal and the baggage system were now working well and insisted T5 would eventually be regarded as a great success.
Willie Walsh, BA chief executive, told MPs the airline had been forced to compromise on the training and familiarisation of staff because the building was not completed when it was handed over to the airline in September last year.
BAA said that on the first day, 28 of 192 lifts at T5 were not working. This had been reduced to 17 and it was intended that all would be working by July.
BAA has faced fierce criticism from other airlines at Heathrow angered by what they regard as a lack of consultation over the impact of the BA delays on their own planned relocation at the airport.
Giorgio Callegari, chairman of the airport infrastructure group of SkyTeam, the airline alliance led by Air France-KLM and Delta Air Lines, said he hoped to hold talks again with BAA next week. All SkyTeam airlines are due to be located at a refurbished T4 after BA has withdrawn.
Mr Callegari said BAA’s announcement to date of only a partial withdrawal by BA from T4 left him “deeply concerned”.
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