British Airways loses 15-20,000 bags since Thursday at supremely b0rked Heathrow Terminal 5

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58 Responses to “British Airways loses 15-20,000 bags since Thursday at supremely b0rked Heathrow Terminal 5”

  1. imipak says:

    One point I’ve seen mentioned in multiple reports of this world-beating systems catastrophe, but which hasn’t IMO attracted as much attention as it might have done, is that even though they’d already abandoned the ballyhooed fingerprint biometrics security systems after the Information Commissioner pointed out it was probably illegal a few days before launch, slow security was one of the root causes. Staff were unable to get through security to get to where they needed to be to do their jobs. As a card-carrying member of a whole range of orgs such as No2ID, Liberty, Open Rights Group and EFF, I really hope this tarnishes some of the “ooh, shiney!” fascination with gadget-powered security theatre, biometrics and other intrusive and oppressive “security” systems.

    I’m also hugely anticipating the next edition of RISKS Digest (Great fun for fans of armchair schadenfreude!)

  2. demidan says:

    Are you sure that all of this is for security? Maybe just maybe the terrorists have suplanted the true security at Heathrow and this is just a build up to complete world domination? The millitant Islamists are hoping that all the pasengers will commit suicide rather than sit through the incredible wait and stupidity just to loose their Ipods and skis. We will find out which whenever the person incharge of security gets a giant raise or a boot in the arse.

  3. Takuan says:

    follow the money

    “The shittier Heathrow is, the stronger the value-proposition for business class tickets.”

    now, do the managers of TSA hold stock in private charter airline companies in the USA?

  4. imipak says:

    “After all, the reason terrorists will never try useng boxcutters again isn’t because of our awesome security. It’s because they know the passengers will kill them if they try it again.”
    (Comment #11)

    -Actually the reason is much simpler than that: armoured cockpit doors. It defeats the entire attack.

    To the many people relating awful experiences at Heathrow: this is mostly because it’s running at something like 98% capacity all the time. Whether you think the answer is fewer landing slots or more runways partly depends on how close you live to the flight path. This new terminal is intended to relieve the massive pressure on the existing facilities.

    The BBC also reported calls from BA staff saying that they tried reporting upwards that they hadn’t had any training and that the tests showed it wasn’t going to work – the message must have mutated from “it’s full of horse shit” to “it is fertile and will bring forth a bountiful harvest” on it’s way up the hierarchy. They also said there were appeals to staff to go in voluntarily on their days off to help sort the mess out. Many responded to such requests for emergency help during similar fiascos such as the “liquid bombs” security checks, and long term pressure on pay and conditions, no-one showed up.

  5. Takuan says:

    why don’t they use Wikileaks?

  6. dculberson says:

    Why hasn’t air travel taken a cliff-face decline since all these incidents started taking place?

  7. WaveyDave says:

    My own pet theory on this (and I confess its just based on my own observations of the world) is that the T5 project is demonstrating why modern project management techniques cannot substitue for clever people who understand the job being done being empowered to set up and run the systems in hand.
    I’d love to know what the staffing profile of the T5 operations team is like. Want to bet there are lots of MBAs and Project Managers in there? How many of them have worked check-in or baggage handling for 10 years and have experience of what to do when excrement hits fan ? I would guess that not many have. As far as I am aware “Baggage Handler” has never been a greatly respected profession , and does not have a great career structure. So as others have said already,
    1. when trialling the system operational and training problems reported by those on the shopfloor were not passed up the chain, and
    2. then on the day when off-duty staff were called in to help fix things, they contrived to be elsewhere. What goes around comes around. After all what respect had their employer ever shown them.
    The shame of all this is that the customer is the one who gets it in the neck.

    I’d like to say that this reflects a greater malaise in British society as the people at the top work the system to make sure all the rewards go to them rather than fairly compensating those who do the work, but I would be here all week and it would be severely off-topic.

  8. Neuron says:

    …forcing passengers to check hand-bags that are less than an inch oversize…

    Boo hoo. Why is it people who carry-on their luggage think they’re God’s gift to air travel?

  9. Takuan says:

    bloody Thatcher

  10. Takuan says:

    build a carry-on bag that has hydraulics in it. Accordian sides, slight taper overall. As you shove it in the pump starts cycling and slowly but surely ruptures the sizing gauge

  11. TEKNA2007 says:

    In fairness to Heathrow, I passed through T5 today and had no problems whatsoever. I cleared border security and baggage reclaim in less than an hour, which is certainly better than I’ve ever achieved at T4.

    Getting through check-in is hella easy if you’ve had 15-20000 useless bags sidelined and cleared out of your way.

  12. Antinous says:

    Some sound bytes from British Airways’ chief executive Willie Walsh:

    was not our finest hour

    minor system problems

    We clearly disappointed a number of people

    Today has started much better.” “At this stage I still expect some cancellations tomorrow.” Some cancellations turned out to be 54 flights, 20 more than the first day.

    Some sound bytes from workers:

    During the inadequate training days prior to the opening, any staff questions were bounced back with ‘I don’t know’ and ‘It will be clear on the day’.

    Staff signage is non-existent

    Didn’t Britain used to run an empire?

  13. themagus says:

    Waveydave….my god you speak the truth!

  14. Boomzilla says:

    Couple of points here:

    1. Is anyone surprised that was a monumental screw up? Just take a look at the rest of Heathrow. They’ve had *years* to get it right with only backwards progress (and yes – I had the displeasure of flying through Heathrow last Monday so I have recent, first-hand expereince). Take a leaf from the pages of many other industries (especially the software industry ;-) It *never* works first time; that’s why a “soft opening” is so important. Run a smaller set of traffic through the system first to work out the kinks. Then ramp it up over time. Big bang launches are aptly named…

    2. Let us bow our heads and remember the works of Douglas Adams (and I paraphrase as It’s been years since I read the quote): “no society in the universe has ever come up with a phase that is equivalent to “as beautiful as an airport”…

    3. Bring back Dennis Howell. Minister of Sport and then Minister of drought. Where are you Dennis when we need you so much…

  15. jonathan_v says:

    @Boomzilla

    “Didn’t Britain used to run an empire?”

    Yes, but they also fucked it up and lost it all.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Former_British_colonies
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Empire

  16. randomelginguy says:

    oh no, the terrorists have beaten the airport with oversized luggage. What will they think of next, those cheeky terrorists, always trying to spoil our day.
    *keep calm and carry on*

  17. insomma says:

    @ #42 techdeviant

    “Now I am sooo happy that I chose to land in Gatwick instead of Heathrow for my vacation in a couple weeks :)”

    I wouldn’t be so sure that Gatwick is going to remain uneffected by this mess. Especially if it takes as long to clean up as we fear. A lot of people will probably try EU/gatwick transfers to get to London now instead. Isn’t Gatwick a huge BA hub as well?

  18. efergus3 says:

    The good news is that Aliens have ceased doing anal probes. The bad news, since the Heathrow security folks can’t take finger prints, they have.

  19. mgabrysSF says:

    re:” As I understand it once you check your bag in, be it at the train station or the airport its self, no human comes into contact with your bag till it is off loaded at your destination.”

    Denver International – that was a greeaaaat robot system. Only it never worked.

  20. noen says:

    Imioak – “Actually the reason is much simpler than that: armoured cockpit doors. It defeats the entire attack.”

    You have no proof for your belief whereas I have flight 93. That one incident sent a huge message that passengers on any flight were prepared to kill terrorists and keep them from completing their task, at the risk of their own lives.

    God help us if the morons who rule over us ever figure out how to do it right.

  21. Defiant1 says:

    Heathrow’s £4 billion terminal does not work because no one bothered to do a “systems analysis” of the entire thing. No dry runs, no Operations Research.

    What the hell does this have to do with fingerprinting or privacy? Me thinks your tin foil fats are on a bit too tight.

  22. stb says:

    When Munich opened Terminal 2 back in June 2003, I was connecting there on the second day of operations.Lufthansa had scheduled only 45 minutes(!) to change from an internal to an US bound flight, and it all went without any problems. And I don’t remember reading about any trouble in the first weeks at all.

    It might well be that LHR’s T5 has to cope with a lot more passengers than MUC’s T2, and I’m sure LHR is operating much more to capacity than MUC ever will, but still…

    For the past 5 years, I have successfully avoided going via LHR, and I certainly will continue to do so. Here’s hoping that Open Skys will bring back the good old days of pre-2001 trans-atlantic travel :-)

  23. djam says:

    They should change the name to terminally flawed!

  24. Steve Nimmons says:

    The baggage backlog is sadly rather scandalous and I certainly sympathise immensely with anyone trying to travel via T5 over the weekend (and probably through most of next week). Let’s not lose sight however of the extremely complex nature of this operation and the first class job performed by countless engineers, technicians, contractors and the like, that made the infrastructure ready. The recipe for failure in my view was not going for a soft launch with increasing capacity at various checkpoints. This may not have been economically desirable, but perhaps would have saved significantly blushes and passenger anger. Let’s hope it gets resolved very quickly. I also vote for RFID tagging of baggage and the permanent removal of finger printing – which is arguably the most ‘weird’ idea of the whole terminal.

  25. padster123 says:

    Why why why didn’t they slowly ramp up?

    I read that they ran dummy runs with fake passengers etc, and they didn’t run at 100% projected capacity from day 1, but really: – wouldn’t it have been sensible to open with maybe 20% capacity passenger load – do the big opening fanfare, have people say “Oh, it’s so lovely and quiet and tranquil etc etc etc” and then, when the publicity has faded and people are happy, ramp up gently (shaking out bugs in the inter-related systems all the way) to full capacity over a few months. Totally bloody obvious, isn’t it?

    Can I have a £100,000 a year consultancy gig, please?

  26. ME says:

    maybe they should fly virgin atlantic. ha ha ha ! VA is BoingBoing approved. ha ha ha!

    sorry, it’s a slow night.

  27. RyanH says:

    Anyone else want to book a flight, fill a suitcase with rocks, and then insure it for the maximum possible amount?

  28. sadsamm says:

    Thats sad they spend all of that money and it sinks like a rock.”what were they thinking

    someone should of had their thinking cap on
    wait i cant say that

    ok, so if air travel is becoming a lot like a bus ride does that mean we wear more clothes and carry or toothbrush in our pocket and hope were close to a washing machine??

  29. jwb says:

    Ha, the joke’s on them! It’s not even snowing in San Francisco!

  30. danegeld says:

    I’m glad you followed up on this story, these are the same people who until a week ago wanted to take biometric data and fingerprint each and every passenger before allowing them to fly, for purposes of counter-terrrism and ‘mmigration

    I think the government and corporations collecting lots of personal data is a very bad idea, not solely because I wear a tin-foil hat and think they’re going to use it for some unspecified nefarious purpose, but because they’re likely not competent to handle computer systems properly as evidenced by the baggage cock-up.

  31. WarLord says:

    Greetings

    But by God its SECURE!!!!

    Not satisfied with shoeless waterless sheep bleating their way aboard de plane, now the sheep peeps don’t even get their luggage LOL

    When the airlines and security apparat piss in your face just keep telling yourself “its raining”

    Enjoy the journey

    WarLord

  32. Anonymous says:

    To those of you who think it’s funny that this happened or don’t think it’s that big of a deal, t s bvs tht y r nt nd prbbly nvr wll b n pstn tht s mprtnt ngh tht yr mplyr wld ctlly thnk t fly y t lctn bcs yr pnn mght mttr. n th sm sns, dbt vry srsly y ctlly hv tw dllrs t rb tgthr tht mght gt y n flght fr wknd t gt y wy frm yr brgr flppng jb.

    Hwvr, fr ths f s wh r prfssnls, fnd tht this type of situation, while not unavoidable, is not a laughing matter and the plight of these individuals, be they students, tourists, or business professionals, is not something to ridicule.

    How would you like it if you had an important conference and your business attire was somehow lost?

  33. simplehuman says:

    “Oh no, the ski trip was ruined! Mummy! Our ski trip!”

    You think the beeb could have found a passenger who was perhaps a bit more put out than some kids on holiday? I imagine a ruined vacation is the least tragic foul-up from this debacle.

  34. Shalom says:

    Hilarious! Somebody’s getting fiiiired. . . .=)

  35. jonathan_v says:

    @#3 danegeld

    I saw an argument over that on a tv ‘news’ program the other day. The proponents simply stated over and over “If you’re doing nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide,” and talking at-length about ‘so-called’ privacy rights.

    It was then that I decided your argument is the best one – and the only one worth talking about now: these corporations and governments are incompetent and stupid.

    Why argue about rights to privacy, about ‘do you have something to hide?’, or ‘will the government abuse their trust?’… the crushing argument time and time again is simple: we don’t live in a perfect world, and these organizations are just plain stupid. They’re too dumb to use the data, let alone abuse it. With an innate inability to process or safeguard personal information, they shouldn’t be able to track/compile it.

  36. coop says:

    Send in Gordon Ramsay!

  37. Torlek42 says:

    If there are any Monty Python fans out there…you must be dying of laughter right now. Decades back in the I’m So Worried song they specifically mentioned the baggage retrieval system at Heathrow several times. It’s on YouTube if you’re interested.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0e10baH6cE&feature=related

  38. tp1024 says:

    Coop: Not worth it, because can’t show that in the US. It would be weekly installments showing a guy running around, waving hands, moving his mouth, clearly shouting at people and all you’d hear is *beeeep* for 45 min straight, if you skip the commercials. ;)

  39. Takuan says:

    I am curious. Why doesn’t Heathrow work?

  40. Takuan says:

    ah haha Ho! thanks for reminding me! think I’ll break out “Monty Python Sings”

  41. scottfree says:

    I really hope I can get a job on a cruise ship for my annual one way trip across oceans this year [on which I typically take all my favourite books]. ive always been stressed about travel and reading BB does not help.

    What is it about English culture that any massive building project will go tits up? other cities have skylines. london has construction cranes from a hundred unfinished projects as far as the eye can see.

    There’s nothing funny about this; actually its extremely disturbing.

  42. axleworthington says:

    Heathrow is the WORST airport I have ever traveled through. We had to go through Heathrow on the way to and from switzerland, and the security line was every man for himself- the most pushy line-cutters making their flights, and polite people missing their connections. Total chaos and disorganization. Heathrow sucks. I have flown through many third world airports that were way better.

  43. woody says:

    Well here’s more Info for travelers in the US:
    BWI Baltimore/Washington is not free internet access..you gotta buy it. From a company called Boingboing..he he
    MCI Kansas City is free…lots of plugs
    DEN Denver is free but you have to watch 10 minutes of advertising
    Tampa Florida is free, lots of plugs
    Salt Lake City is free, lot’s of plugs and you can smoke almost anywhere
    Cabo San Lucas Mexico is free
    Any airport that charges me for electricity/internet usually gets paid back eventually. I suggest all air travelers do the same.

  44. Takuan says:

    mind the Noro

  45. woody says:

    Nobody here remembers Denver? They tried the same thing 20 years ago, it didn’t work and they scrapped it. You Brits should have seen it coming.

  46. Hans says:

    Fortunately, we can count on the new chief of Heathrow security: A former loss preventions officer from the duty-free shop, who is (at least allegedly) in a relationship with the airport managing director. (Daily mail article pulled from Fark).

  47. Antinous says:

    Well, there’s a reason in Denver.

  48. noen says:

    Here’s an idea. Since government/corporate institutions have proven themselves incompetent. Make all data and all information collected by the security state public. Put every CCTV on the internet. Put every baggage scan on a screen in full view of every passenger boarding the plane. Allow every passenger to view all the info the state has on every passenger on the flight.

    I don’t know, probably a stupid idea. But something like that might work. After all, the reason terrorists will never try useng boxcutters again isn’t because of our awesome security. It’s because they know the passengers will kill them if they try it again.

  49. LambieJan says:

    I remember the good ‘ole days (1970′s and 1980′s) when air travel used to be fun, even if you were in coach. With each successive aircraft refurbishing, they squeeze more and more rows of seats in. Personel are rude, and try getting a flight attendant to care what you need! It doesn’t surprise me that now someone has gone and screwed up a luggage system that at best was imperfect to BEGIN with. The only way around it is to be rich enough for first class or have yerr own jet:) Have a great night everyone:)

  50. Boomzilla says:

    Couple of points here:

    1. Is anyone surprised that was a monumental screw up? Just take a look at the rest of Heathrow. They’ve had *years* to get it right with only backwards progress (and yes – I had the displeasure of flying through Heathrow last Monday so I have recent, first-hand expereince). Take a leaf from the pages of many other industries (especially the software industry ;-) It *never* works first time; that’s why a “soft opening” is so important. Run a smaller set of traffic through the system first to work out the kinks. Then ramp it up over time. Big bang launches are aptly named…

    2. Let us bow our heads and remember the works of Douglas Adams (and I paraphrase as It’s been years since I read the quote): “no society in the universe has ever come up with a phase that is equivalent to “as beautiful as an airport”…

    3. Bring back Dennis Howell. Minister of Sport and then Minister of drought. Where are you Dennis when we need you so much…

  51. Lordrabbi says:

    Funny its the baggage system that has fubared things up as this was just what a friend of mine was complaining about before T5 opened.

    He argued that since they were building a totally new baggage system why could they just not use the same design that Hong Kong uses. As I understand it once you check your bag in, be it at the train station or the airport its self, no human comes into contact with your bag till it is off loaded at your destination.

    I think this was the original plan with T5 as well, I have no idea why they decided they needed human handers in the system but this is one of the reasons the BBC is saying the problem has happened. Handlers could not clear the bags quick enough.

    Maybe the reason for the inclusion for baggage handlers was union involvement….if so that has bite them right in the bum.

    In the end I am going to have to eat humble pie again the next time I speak to my friend as again he is right….

  52. nemrel says:

    ‘m so worried about what’s hapenin’ today, in the middle east, you know
    And I’m worried about the baggage retrieval system they’ve got at Heathrow
    I’m so worried about the fashions today, I don’t think they’re good for your feet
    And I’m so worried about the shows on TV that sometimes they want to repeat

    I’m so worried about what’s happenin’ today, you know
    And I’m worried about the baggage retrieval system they’ve got at Heathrow
    I’m so worried about my hair falling out and the state of the world today
    And I’m so worried about bein’ so full of doubt about everything, anyway

    I’m so worried about modern technology
    I’m so worried about all the things that they dump in the sea
    I’m so worried about it, worried about it, worried, worried, worried

  53. Cory Doctorow says:

    One thing that I’ve figured out about Heathrow flights is that business-class and first-class travellers get a MUCH better deal than coach travellers. BA’s Terminal One check-in is at the other end of the terminal, with its own high-speed security check that lets out directly into the duty-free in the middle of the terminal. Virgin’s Upper Class limo service drives you right onto a tarmac security checkpoint with its own guards (by contrast, coach travellers on Virgin go through the Terminal 3 security checkpoint, which often runs more than 2 hours — I once was stuck in it for more than 3.

    The shittier Heathrow is, the stronger the value-proposition for business class tickets.

  54. Takuan says:

    “The only way around it is to be rich enough for first class or have yerr own jet:) ”

    yep. How about a working people’s charter line?

  55. techdeviant says:

    Now I am sooo happy that I chose to land in Gatwick instead of Heathrow for my vacation in a couple weeks :)

  56. monked says:

    uh oh….Big Brother’s got dementia and is literally losing it at the airport

    Can everyone say “moooo mmmoooo moo”?

  57. SciencePunk says:

    In fairness to Heathrow, I passed through T5 today and had no problems whatsoever. I cleared border security and baggage reclaim in less than an hour, which is certainly better than I’ve ever achieved at T4.

    So there’s good news among the bad.

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