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Last Updated: Friday, 12 August 2005, 15:42 GMT 16:42 UK
Passengers describe Heathrow chaos
By Lucy Wilkins
BBC News

Jimmy Kakoo (middle) with two scout friends
A group of Portuguese scouts are among those stranded at Heathrow

BBC News spoke to passengers at Heathrow on Friday as they attempted to cope with the delay caused by BA cancellation of all flights from Heathrow, later resumed.

A Portuguese scout is strumming his guitar as his friends slump exhausted on plastic airport chairs or lie on roll mats.

They have been at Heathrow Terminal One for nearly 26 hours and have no idea when they will eventually leave on a flight to Lisbon.

Having checked in by 1400 BST on Thursday, when the industrial dispute that has thrown British Airways into chaos began, their luggage has been on a plane overnight.

Dressed in scout uniform, their cabin luggage and guitars are all they have.

The passengers have been very good, they are sympathetic and understanding
Charles Cemlyn-Jones
British Airways

Jimmy Kakoo, 24, said: "After 17 days camping in Chelmsford we didn't expect this. It is the last thing we need."

Tucking into the food provided by British Airways, he added that when they stepped outside the terminal but then wanted return inside, they had a tough time persuading staff to allow them through.

"Perhaps it's not a good image for the company to have us lying on the floor like this," gesturing to the cordon of trolleys draped with Portugal scarves.

Outside, a large marquee has been set up. A long trestle table is laden with hot and cold drinks, bagels and sandwiches, with plastic trays stacked almost to the roof with more food.

British Airways is already booking people into hotels for Friday night and is clearly expecting to be feeding its waiting passengers for many hours yet.

In 17 years working for British Airways, Charles Cemlyn-Jones has never seen such an operation.

Marquee outside Terminal One
Marquees have been set up to feed the hungry hordes

"The passengers have been very good, they are sympathetic and understanding."

They may be understanding to those giving them refreshment but some were less understanding towards other staff.

While the British Airways check-in counters are almost deserted, BMI is busy.

A Spanish family of four have to spend an additional 550 for a BMI flight to Glasgow for their 15-day holiday with friends.

While their delay at Heathrow - only four-and-a-half hours - was not long, Xavier Majo was annoyed at the inconvenience.

"British Airways should refund our ticket to Glasgow, but also compensate us for the trouble this has caused our family."

When they left Barcelona this morning, they were told that there might be problems with connections at Heathrow.

Gerd Heinie and Herbert Mendler
Gerd Heinie and Herbert Mendler have been frustrated by the delay

"But there was very little information," added his wife Natalia.

Two German tourists also complained about a lack of information about what happens next.

Herbert Mendler, 54, and Gerd Heinie, 63, had spent almost two weeks cycling 1200km from London to Cornwall and the west coast, finally ending at Windsor on Thursday night.

At breakfast on Friday they had heard that British Airways were having problems, but cycled to the airport for their 1515 BST flight to Stuttgart anyway.

"Nobody can tell us exactly what to do," said Mr Mendler.

"There's only a free phone number to rebook our flights on, but we can't understand why we can't walk into the terminal and do it there."

Waiting with their bikes near the marquee, they seemed reluctant to leave the airport despite British Airways saying there would be no flights until after 2000 BST.

Going nowhere

"We've had no problems for two weeks but now this is a problem," said Mr Heinie.

In Terminal Four a few hundred people are queuing to rebook. They sit on their luggage as the queue does not seem to be moving. Outside, another marquee is set up.

It has the feeling of a particularly upmarket refugee camp - albeit one with plentiful supplies of water, food, coffee, music, free newspapers and uniformed staff.

But no-one is going anywhere.

Ryan Fame, a 21-year-old American student, is sitting reading on the footpath, surrounded by her luggage. She flew in from Montpellier, in France, having completed a summer internship there, and is waiting to get home to Dallas.

'In the dark'

But first she needs to get a number from British Airways staff - that will take five hours. When her number is called she will probably spend two or three hours in the queue to rebook.

She will either stay at a hotel for the night or possibly with a friend of a friend, but she will not get out of the terminal until 2330 BST at the earliest.

The three-piece band playing in the marquee seem little comfort, but she says she is not worried about the delay.

"In France everything was new to me so I'm just treating this as a continuation of that experience.

"It seems like people are in the dark, but they can't predict these things."





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