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Last Updated: Friday, 28 March 2008, 17:14 GMT

A trip through Terminal 5

By Iain Haddow
BBC News

Passengers waiting at Heathrow's Terminal 5
Heathrow Terminal 5 - a comfortable place to wait for hours?

It is day two of Heathrow Terminal 5's disastrous opening, and I am standing in the chemist upstairs from the enormous duty free shop, on a mission to buy sunscreen.

So far, I have been given two tellings-off, but at least they have been nice about it.

The first was after going through security screening. I was chastised for not returning my trays correctly on the automatic conveyer belt after they have been through the brand spanking new X-ray machine.

Actually, there seems to be a bit of a logjam, but I'm informed that piling them up on top of each other is a no-no.

To be honest, the tray system feels a bit like being in a school canteen. The conveyer belt transporting my belongings moves at an agonisingly slow pace.

The security staff seem friendly enough, a bit like dinner ladies. But put one foot wrong and you're in trouble.

'Delete or be arrested'

Clearly, the American behind me was having none of it. Maybe he was a refugee passenger from the terminal's opening day and had spent the night on the cold tiled floor.

Having shot the staff a glare, he vented his fury. "None of it ruddy well works," he growled, "and it's run by Luddites."

The slightest thing and British Airways spirals out of control
Heathrow passenger

My second brush with the authorities is a few moments later, as I try to take a picture of the sloth-like trays to accompany this article.

I'm told in no uncertain terms to delete the picture or face arrest. But the security man is very polite.

The thing is, politeness doesn't help much when your flight's been cancelled or you've had to leave the airport without your bags.

Thankfully, I didn't hear of any luggage problems when I checked in this morning.

All smiles

Liliana from British Airways on check-in told me she thought the worst was over.

"Are the teething problems finished?" I ask.

"I think they will go away, yes," comes the reply from a beaming face.

I'm trusting to fate and praying to God that the baggage handlers have had a spot of overnight training on the new carousel.

Two British Airways check-in staff
Check-in staff are optimistic that T5's troubles have been overcome

Asking a young man in a green blazer the way to Gate A2, I am impressed by the accuracy of his directions.

I try to catch him out with a tricky follow-up. The answer comes back quick as a flash.

"Boots is about 100 yards down there on your right."

Nursing a coffee at Gate A2 and thinking the worst is over, I get chatting to two fellow passengers. One flies up to Glasgow every week.

"The slightest thing and British Airways spirals out of control," he says. "I've started flying British Midland to Glasgow from Heathrow. They're far more reliable."

A man in the suit on the other side tells me he should have been on a breakfast flight to Glasgow.

"It was cancelled," he says. "This is supposed to be a one-day business trip, but I'm already worried about whether I'll get back today."

The time is now 11am and British Airways flight 8923 to Glasgow takes off, about 55 minutes late.

Shortly before departure, I send a text message to my parents who have been enquiring about my progress through the new terminal building.

"I'm on board," I tell them. "Hoping my bags are too."

As a precaution, I have packed my toothbrush in my carry-on bag.

And at least I have some sunscreen.





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