Terminal 5s Technology Mars Grand Opening

By: Andy Adams

Recently Heathrow airport in London opened its fifth terminal, exclusive to British Airways the new structure was opposed by locals and environmentalists yet promised to provide much needed relief from the congestion which has plagued one of the busiest airports in Europe.

There was a mass of media attention on opening day where the Queen and Prince Philip were treated to a guided tour of the new terminal. All seemed well with the new Glass and Steel structure which is the largest free standing building in Britain, also being home to over ten miles of luggage belts. The honeymoon was not to last with numerous problems plaguing the new terminal so much so that the plans to offload the bulk of traffic to the terminal has been delayed until June when they hope to have all the kinks worked out.

Whilst basic issues such as parking machines not functioning properly were an inconvenience the main problem holidaymakers encountered was baggage and check in bottlenecks. Firstly the check in desks were not opened on opening day until 4am, this meant anyone trying to check in earlier had to queue up, the added waiting time meant that many flights were delayed or cancelled.

The baggage system is the main culprit in the problems though, initially designed to be less of a hindrance by having a "baggage drop" where the luggage is hoisted down to an under-floor network of luggage belts so that "passengers are able to move forward from one of the 96 check in desks rather than go around or to the side, It's on the way rather than in the way" a BAA executive said about the technology.

This effort was overshadowed by other baggage troubles, the incoming deluge of baggage came too quick for staff to handle, and this quickly resulted in a two hour delay for passengers to get their baggage. Things got worse when automated systems reported that empty planes were fully laden with baggage, meaning under-trained staff had to double back to the terminal and load the baggage onto the next flights to that destination.

Obviously this meant that many people lost their luggage when they arrived on their holidays which is one of the key scenarios that can put a serious dampener on your holiday spirit! By the time the story hit the newsstands it was estimated that British Airways had 15,000 lost bags at Heathrow.

Many flights that were meant to be routed through Terminal 5 have now been rescheduled to operate through one of the previous terminals and the full adoption of Terminal 5 for flights has been put back to June. By then British Airways hopes that problems they've encountered during this teething stage will be eradicated.

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