Breakdown Snarls New Heathrow Terminal

New terminal opens with baggage meltdown, dozens of cancellations
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 28, 2008 4:15 AM CDT
Cancelled flights are seen on an information board as passengers wait in the departure lounge of the new Terminal 5 building at Heathrow Airport in west London, Thursday, March 27, 2008.   (AP Photo/Akira Suemori)
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(Newser) – The gleaming new Terminal 5 at Heathrow airport had a disastrous opening yesterday as its state-of-the-art baggage handling facility crashed and 34 flights were canceled. British Airways, the only airline flying out of the new terminal, suspended baggage check-in by the afternoon, and arriving passengers were forced to wait up to four hours for their luggage. "This is real British organization for you," one stranded German traveler told the Times of London.

The fiasco is a public relations nightmare for BA and for the airport operator, who blamed each other for the meltdown. London's status as a world-class business destination has been hampered by the so-called "Heathrow hassle," which Terminal 5 was supposed to eliminate. Today BA will try to accommodate the thousands of people whose flights were canceled—none of whom received any compensation.