Page last updated at 17:18 GMT, Tuesday, 15 April 2008 18:18 UK

BA managers leave after T5 fiasco

Willie Walsh, British Airways boss
BA boss Willie Walsh is under pressure after T5's disastrous opening

British Airways has said that two of its senior executives will leave the company after the opening of its Terminal 5 was dogged by problems.

BA said Gareth Kirkwood, director of operations, and David Noyes, director of customer services, would be leaving

The company said it would now look to appoint one person to cover both roles.

The opening of Terminal 5 was beset by a catalogue of problems, with staff not able to get into work, thousands of bags mislaid, and flights cancelled.

'Firing line'

A BA spokesperson declined to say whether the two had chosen to go or were asked to leave.

The BBC's transport correspondent Tom Symonds said he believed they had paid the price for BA's inability to explain what had gone wrong on the first day at Terminal 5.

On the morning when the problems first emerged, Mr Kirkwood was recorded by television cameras walking away quickly from reporters, declining to answer questions.

The departures follow the airline's move to Terminal 5
BA statement

The BBC's correspondent said that BA boss Willie Walsh was not yet "out of the firing line" with BA shareholders set to meet management this week to discuss the problems at the new terminal.

Mr Walsh took responsibility for the problems at the 4.3bn terminal, saying that its opening was not the company's finest hour.

John Strickland, director at air transport consultancy JLS, said there seemed to be "a lack of communication about the problems involved in the run up to the opening of the new terminal".

But Mr Strickland said he did not believe Mr Walsh should step down.

Director of Operations Gareth Kirkwood speaking on 27 March

He said Mr Walsh had a strong track record and that BA needed continuity of management to pilot it through a period of strike threats, high fuel costs and increasing competition on the lucrative transatlantic route.

Shares in the airline, a FTSE 100 company, were trading 7 pence, or 3.25%, lower at 208.50 pence, a 12-month low.

Flight coverage

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

Since the end of March, the problems at Terminal 5 have been so severe that some insurers including Direct Line and Tesco, have stopped offering cover for lost luggage or delayed flights.

According to the firms, people who bought travel insurance before the problems started will still be able to make claims.

But insurance bought since then may not pay out for delayed or cancelled flights, or lost or delayed luggage.

Direct Line said it would restore the cover to new policies once the terminal was working properly. Royal Bank of Scotland and Churchill - both part of the same group as Direct Line - have also stopped offering insurance cover.

Other insurers have not changed their policies, and Norwich Union said it would still offer travellers the same level of cover as before.

Catastrophic debut

One consequence of the delays at Terminal 5 has been that BA is not able to move its long-haul operations to the new building from Terminal 4 as scheduled on 30 April.

It has yet to set a fixed date for the move, saying that it will get underway some time in June.

But it is likely the transfer will be staggered over a number of months, possibly not finishing until October, said Mr Walsh on Monday.

BA has been criticised by rival carriers, many of whom were scheduled to move into Terminal 4 once the UK carrier had gone.

Those due to move into Terminal 4 include Air France-KLM and Delta, while Continental Airlines already moved in on 30 March.

BA said the problems at T5 had cost it at least 16m so far.

In a short statement announcing the management changes, BA said the duo's "departures follow the airline's move to Terminal 5".


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