(dpa) - British Airways (BA) was sending thousands of suitcases to Milan in a bid to cope with a backlog of 19,000 bags caused by the chaos at Terminal Five (T5), reports said Wednesday.
According to British media, the airline has more than 400 volunteers working to deal with the baggage backlog, and luggage is being sent to a courier firm in Milan where it will be sorted and either driven or flown to owners.
A British Airways spokesman said that although the majority of delayed bags would be sorted and "reflighted" at Heathrow, it was "quicker for bags with European mainland addresses to go to Milan for sorting and onward transport than waiting for space to appear on flights leaving Heathrow."
She said it was standard practice for BA to use the Milan-based courier firm when coping with a backlog.
At least 50 flights were cancelled Tuesday, and British Airways was continuing to cancel flights Wednesday. However, it was hoped that 92 per cent of flights would operate on Thursday.
The Olympic torch is set to come to Heathrow on Saturday night, but not through T5.
A spokesman said that there had never been a plan to take the torch through the terminal.
"This is exactly the same as the Athens torch relay in 2004," she added.
Thousands of travellers have been affected by the chaos since last Thursday when the 4.3-billion-pound (8.6-billion-dollar) sparkling glass-and-steel terminal opened to the public for the first time.
The chaos which surrounded the airport's multi-billion-pound new T5 posed what the critics called a "PR disaster" for Britain as passengers faced not only flight cancellations, but also delays and no delivery of their baggage after their arrival as the terminal's baggage-handling system failed.
Amid the chaos, the British Chambers of Commerce said T5 was a "PR disaster for London" and Britain while the opposition Conservative party was demanding an inquiry into the "chaos and confusion."