Page last updated at 18:34 GMT, Friday, 11 April 2008 19:34 UK

BA postpones long-haul move to T5

Terminal 5
Terminal 5 has been plagued by baggage problems

British Airways has delayed moving most of its long-haul flights to Heathrow's new Terminal 5 until June.

"It is only sensible to ensure that Terminal 5 is operating consistently at a high standard before the move begins," said BA boss Willie Walsh.

The new 4.3bn terminal has been plagued by problems, especially with its baggage handling, since it opened.

Almost all of BA's long-haul flights were supposed to switch from Terminal 4 to Terminal 5 on 30 April.

BA boss defends Terminal 5 postponement

No date in June has yet been given for the move.

The delay in moving will have a knock-on effect on other airlines, which had been due to move into Terminal 4 once BA had left.

Those due to move into Terminal 4 include Air France-KLM, Delta and Continental Airlines.

BMI said the delay was "outrageous and inconsiderate", adding that the UK "was once again a laughing stock".

Tough opening

In a joint statement with airport operator BAA, British Airways said: "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.

"We will work together to iron out any remaining problems, including the baggage system and its operation, and develop a robust timescale for phasing the move of Terminal 4 services into Terminal 5."

BA's Mr Walsh added that he thought it was a sensible decision.

"We've clearly learned from our experiences of working in Terminal 5 since we've moved in there and it's a decision taken with our customers in mind," he told the BBC.

BAA regrets this postponement and we recognise the impact it has on other airlines
Colin Matthews, BAA chief executive

"I think this short delay before we start phasing more aircraft into T5 gives us an opportunity to continue to work on the issues that are challenging us.

"They are less today than they were and I'm very confident."

Sixty arrivals and 60 departures per day were due to be moved.

Customers whose terminal has been changed will be contacted shortly, BA and BAA said.

Transfer delays

The biggest problems could be experienced by people transferring from a short-haul to a long-haul flight at Heathrow.

BA's summer schedules assumed that passengers would be flying into and out of Terminal 5.

"If you're flying Manchester to Delhi, if you'd got the 0745 flight out you could have expected to be in Delhi at 11 o'clock at night," said Simon Calder, travel editor of the Independent.

"Now you're not going to get there until six the following morning, because you've got to get across from Terminal 5 to Terminal 4."

Knock-on effects

BAA's chief executive Colin Matthews said: "BAA fully recognises that the inauguration of Terminal 5 has not been as smooth as we and BA would have wished.

"BAA regrets this postponement and we recognise the impact it has on other airlines," he added.

This is a sensible move
Paul Kenny, GMB union

The first wave of airlines moving into Terminal 4 was scheduled to take place in January 2009 to allow time for the carriers to build facilities such as check-in desks and lounges.

BAA is not certain how long the delay to the moves to Terminal 4 will be.

"We have meetings scheduled today and next week with the airline community to fully understand any potential impact," a BAA spokesperson told the BBC.

Lost bags

Terminal 5 opened on 27 March, but was not able to offer its full short-haul schedule until 8 April.

Thousands of passengers have lost their bags and hundreds of flights have been delayed or cancelled.

Last week, BA said the problems had cost it at least 16m so far.

"This is a sensible move, which gives time to make sure everything works smoothly," said Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB union.

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