Caos na abertura ao público do novo Terminal 5 em Heathrow

Segundo a CNN a British Airways cancelou cerca de 20% dos voos com saída do novo terminal do aeroporto de Londres. Este facto a juntar a diversos problemas com bagagens no terminal, levou ao caos total no 2º dia de funcionamento deste. Mais pormenores na notícia da CNN:

“LONDON, England (CNN) — Flight cancellations, delays and baggage problems continued to plague Heathrow Airport’s Terminal Five for a second day after the much-heralded building opened for business.

British Airways, the only airline operating from the new terminal, canceled 20 percent of its flights from the terminal on Friday, a spokesman said, and predicted possible delays for the remaining 80 percent.

On Friday, passengers were initially allowed only hand luggage on flights from the terminal, but the airline later allowed checked-in luggage as well, the spokesman said.

The problems are an embarrassment for British Airways and Heathrow, which spent two decades and $8.6 billion building the terminal. Airport operator BAA promised that the terminal would be able to handle dozens of planes at the same time and process 12,000 bags an hour.

Thursday was supposed to mark a new era for BA and the 30 million passengers who will pass through T5 each year. Both have suffered for years at the four older terminals of what has been derided as “Hassle Heathrow.”

The opening day started off well — the first arriving flight touched down early, and BA Chairman Willie Walsh greeted passengers as they stepped off the plane. But the problems quickly mounted with staff parking, delays in staff security screening and major delays in baggage claim.

“It’s a disaster,” said one woman who arrived on a flight from San Francisco, California. She said she waited more than an hour for her bags.

CNN’s Richard Quest said: “The news is simply grim at Terminal 5. It couldn’t have happened at a worse time.”

At least 33 flights were canceled at T5 Thursday and there were long lines at check-in desks. A computer problem meant some flights departed with no bags at all, and escalators and elevators stopped working.

BA chalked it up to “teething problems” following what it said was one of the most complex and largest airport moves in history.

“We sincerely apologize to those customers who have suffered disrupted journeys or baggage delays,” BA Director of Operations Gareth Kirkwood said in a statement Thursday afternoon.

“We always knew the first day would represent a unique challenge because of the size and complexity of the move into Terminal Five. We are working extremely hard on solutions to these short-term difficulties.”

Aviation consultant Jamie Bowden said some problems were inevitable.

“BA and the BAA will say that there have been proving trials, there have been all kinds of testing of the system, but you can never test a terminal this size until the first day that it is fully operational,” Bowden told British network ITN.

With a 400-meter-long (quarter-mile-long) terminal, T5 is the largest freestanding building in Britain. There are 60 aircraft gates attached to the terminal and 112 shops and restaurants, including British chef Gordon Ramsay’s first airport eatery. Photo See images of the new airport building »

The terminal has only 54 of the classic check-in desks compared to 96 self-check-in kiosks to encourage passengers to check in online. No passengers are allowed through if they arrive less than 35 minutes before their flight.

T5 already had plenty of critics even before the opening hassles. Environmentalists are worried about its climate impact, and airport expansion protesters say it’s just the latest step to enlarge the world’s busiest international airport.

Several hundred protesters dressed in red T-shirts reading “Stop Airport Expansion” suddenly descended on the terminal Thursday, angry about the terminal and plans for a third runway at Heathrow. Video Watch angry protesters throng airport »

The protesters included nearby residents who complained about the extra air traffic and noise over their homes, and those who said their homes will be razed to make way for the new runway. “