BA: IT-testing failures caused Heathrow T5 chaos

Summary:British Airways has admitted insufficient training and testing in IT systems caused the baggage shambles that marred the opening of Terminal 5

MPs have told British Airways and airport operator BAA that they "could and should have avoided" the Heathrow Terminal 5 baggage chaos.

Both British Airways (BA) and BAA have been criticised for "serious failings" in a parliamentary transport committee report into the shambolic opening of the £4.3bn terminal in March this year.

The report, released on Monday, states that "what should have been an occasion of national pride was, in fact, an occasion of national embarrassment" as the baggage system failed to process more than 20,000 bags during the first days of its operation.

In a memo to the committee, BA admitted that end-to-end integration testing of key BA operational IT systems was delayed until 31 October, which it said "affected our ability to run both the proving trials and staff familiarisation".

In the report, BA is quoted as accepting the committee's findings that training and testing had been insufficient, saying: "We should not have absorbed the continuing building delays by compromising the time needed to complete the full testing and familiarisation process as planned."

"We should have delayed the move," BA concluded.

The transport committee report notes the impact of a lack of joint groundwork, stating: "The chaotic scenes of late March and early April could and should have been avoided through better preparation and more effective joint working."

However, according to BA, there have been significant improvements since the March opening of Terminal 5 (T5), with the terminal "now providing the best customer experience Heathrow has known for many years", with "significantly improved baggage handling".

BA and BAA now hold regular joint meetings between managers, in order to review baggage operations at T5 and to monitor the timetable for switching remaining flights from T4 to T5.

Since the debacle, BAA told the committee, it has established a joint BA/BAA crisis-management team and set up a direct link between BAA and BA baggage and logistics teams.

BAA added that the difficulties are now behind it.

"Terminal 5 has… been used by more than 11.5 million people. We regularly exceed performance targets for cleanliness, way-finding and security queues have been less than five minutes nearly 98 percent of the time," the airport operator said in a statement to ZDNet UK sister site silicon.com.

Topics: Tech Industry

About

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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