Hasta la vista, Heathrow Terminal 5

March 27, 2008

My wife and I were privileged this morning to be on board the very first domestic flight into Heathrow’s newly opened Terminal 5, and the fourth flight in overall. We were on the fairly empty 6am from Manchester.

We half expected a camera crew on hand to welcome us on completion of our historic flight. Bah! They couldn’t even muster a competent jetty driver or enough baggage handlers to get our bag off the plane.

We had a connecting flight to Barcelona departing Terminal 1 at 9.20 so thought we had plenty of time to kill over a relaxing breakfast in the Executive Lounge, given that our flight from Manchester had arrived on time shortly after 7am. We knew we should worry when the pilot “wished us luck” with Terminal 5.

We lost 15 minutes getting off the plane because the lady ground staff member could not drive the jetty straight, so it would not line up with the door of the plane. We then dashed to collect our luggage – we had not dared check it straight through to Barcelona, and how right we were!

Heathrow Terminal 5

The baggage reclaim hall (pictured) was virtually empty. Just a few hardy travellers and loads of BAA supervisors. No-one was getting the bags off the plane and no-one knew what was going on. It took the concerted effort of several supervisors to get some handlers out to the plane and retrieve the luggage. We had been waiting for the best part of three quarters of an hour and were getting frantic.

A quick dash on the Heathrow Express got us to Terminal 1 just in time to re-check our bag in for the Barcelona flight. Not an auspicious start for Terminal 5. I think for £4.2bn they might have managed to be more organised on day 1.

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  1. Post scriptum #2.

    The second leg of our return flight on Monday (31 March), from Heathrow T5 to Manchester, was cancelled by BA as I had feared. It wasn’t so bad. I rang BA bookings from Barcelona and they put us on a later flight from T5, and also moved us to a later flight from Barcelona so we ended up with more shopping time. Not sure if that’s good or bad.

    We risked checking our suitcase through to Manchester and it duly appeared. It seems that BA had decided to draw a line under the luggage mountain, which had grown to 28,000 items, parceling it off as a bad job and delivering a “normal service” to new passengers. Agreed. Better than throwing more bags on the pile and extending the misery to yet more people.

    So we actually just missed the real chaos both on the way out and on the way back. Perfect timing or what?

  2. Blimey! I thought we were victims of an aggravating but fairly minor early day glitch.

    It wasn’t till we were having dinner in Barcelona with an old friend that we had any inkling of the chaos that ensued (and continues to manifest itself) after we left the country.

    We’re now worried about whether our flight back from Heathrow to Manchester on Monday might be cancelled!

    Looking back on the events of Thursday morning, we got away very lightly indeed.

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