Page last updated at 15:26 GMT, Monday, 31 March 2008 16:26 UK

Flight disruption continues at T5

Delayed passengers on Friday
Many passengers faced delays or cancellations at T5's launch

Disruption at Heathrow's new 4.3bn Terminal 5 is continuing for a fifth day, with 54 flights grounded and a backlog of 15,000 bags.

British Airways said most baggage handling problems which blighted T5's launch had been resolved, but it would take time to clear the left luggage.

Aviation Minister Jim Fitzpatrick said it was regrettable that T5 had fallen "well short of expectations".

He added passengers had suffered an "unacceptably poor travel experience".

Inquiry calls

BA chief executive Willie Walsh said systems were "generally working well", but more flights may be cancelled.

Many bags have been sent to Manchester and Scotland to be processed.

Almost 250 flights in and out of T5 were cancelled during its first four days because of glitches with its new baggage-handling system.

A further 54 out of 394 were scrapped on Monday and some may also be grounded on Tuesday.

T5's rocky start has prompted calls from the Conservatives for an inquiry into the "chaos and confusion", with shadow home secretary David Davis calling the situation "a dreadful national embarrassment".

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne also said the infrastructure project was an "incredible shambles" which "neither British Airways nor [airport operator] BAA seem to be able to put right quickly".

It's really not ideal as an image of Britain
Passenger Scott Basolo

However, on Sunday Mr Walsh, who has ignored calls for his resignation in the wake of the chaos, vowed his staff "would not rest" until T5 was working at a "high standard".

He said BA - which has sole use of the terminal - had 400 volunteers working hard to clear the backlog of thousands of bags which has built up at the airport.

Any new issues with the baggage-handling system were "being addressed as they arise by a team of engineers and IT specialists from BAA and BA", he added.

'No complaints'

Richard and Caroline Newton, from Stourbridge in the West Midlands, who were passing through T5 on Monday, did not appear to encounter any problems and described the facility as a "very impressive building".

"I wouldn't have wanted to be here on Thursday or Friday but so long as we get where we're going with our luggage we've got no complaints," Mr Newton added.

Esra Uzun, a student travelling back to Istanbul, was also positive about T5.

The building was "very nice" and seemed "to be working really well", she said.

Bags piled up at Heathrow
BA says staff are working to clear a backlog of luggage

However, Scott Basolo, who was trying to return to Los Angeles, was less convinced.

"I got here but my flight's not showing on the board so I am a little bit worried. It depends how delayed it is but I have things I have to get back for.

"It's really not ideal as an image of Britain."

Cancelled flights, a temporary suspension in luggage check-in and baggage delays blighted the opening day of T5 on Thursday, leaving many passengers stranded overnight.

BA blamed a combination of "teething problems" for the chaos.

Staff car parking problems, delays in getting workers screened as well as poor staff familiarisation meant many were late to their posts, the airline said.

This resulted in a backlog of baggage which clogged up the underground conveyor system and meant delays and flight cancellations during the next few days.

Transport Minister Ruth Kelly has said the government stood "ready to assist" should BA or BAA need help.

T5's problems have led BA to consider postponing the transfer of its long-haul operations at Terminal 4 to the new building, which had been scheduled for the end of April.

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