Start-up woes continue at new Heathrow terminal
(dpa) - Hundreds of passengers were stranded Sunday as the technical problems continued at Heathrow airport's multi-billion- pound new Terminal 5, as meanwhile beleaguered British Airways faced a new challenge on the aviation business front.
BA was forced to cancel 37 flights due on Sunday to the ongoing problems plaguing the terminal's baggage-handling system, bringing to 250 the total number of flights cancelled since the T5 opened on Thursday.
Thousands of passengers, including those only using Heathrow as a transit stopover on the way to some other destination, have been affected by the baggage problems.
As of Sunday, a mountain of some 15,000 pieces of luggage had accumulated at the terminal as personnel struggled to resolve the problems.
A BA spokeswoman admitted that further flight cancellations were foreseen in the next few days.
The airline hoped that on Monday and Tuesday it could operate 87 per cent of the flights scheduled to depart from the T5, and that afterwards the operations would gradually reach normal conditions.
But meanwhile the airline faced a new challenge Sunday, with the new transatlantic "Open Skies" agreement going into effect, opening up Heathrow for services to North American to many more airlines from the US and EU.
Until Sunday, Heathrow could be sued only by four airlines - BA, Virgin Atlantic and the US carriers United and American Airlines. But under the new agreement, new airlines may use the airport, with a number of air carriers already launching new services on Sunday.
Among others, the US airline Continental began flights from Heathrow to Newark, New Jersey on Sunday, while Delta Airlines was starting flights linking Heathrow to New York and Atlanta and US Airways flying the Heathrow-Philadelphia route.
Air France was scheduled to start up flights from Heathrow to Los Angeles on Monday.