It’s been interesting to watch the coverage given here to the problems at Heathrow’s new Terminal 5 and the huge PR embarrassment caused to British Airways. Dozens of flights cancelled (54 more today!), a baggage handling disaster zone and massive queues. Not a great first week at the new place. I think the Italians are having a schadenfreude kind of moment because the state airline Alitalia is going bust and its fate is the subject of hot political debate during the current elections. With some sense of national shame it looks likely to be bought out by an Air France-KLM collaboration. At least BA’s Terminal 5 shenanigans are taking some of the spotlight at the moment.
How did it all go so pear-shaped so quickly? Presumably the handling systems weren’t adequately tested before opening the complex. After all those years in development we weren’t ready? I wonder if there was any Gov’t pressure to have the place open and operational during the visit of President Sarkozy when the world’s eyes will be on the UK? You know so that Gordon could preen in the glow of British technological superiority. If that was the case then the plan back-fired disastrously. The world is looking on and smiling and tutting, unlike the helpless passengers….
For a nation which gave the world engineering and building talent like Brunel, Wren, Whittle, De Havilland, Rennie, Telford, Whittle, Rolls/Royce, Watt, Stephenson and Brindley we seem to have lost the edge when it comes to delivering major public projects. New Wembley was delivered but only after years of wrangling and major cost overruns. The Dome was on time (just) but plagued by political correctness and more cost escalations. Ditto the new Scottish Assembly building (though I love it). The Millenium footbridge had to be closed after one week for major re-structuring work. Concorde was a thing of beauty but never made any money. And as a kid I remember seeing the doomed magnificent TSR2 fighter/bomber flying over my school on its maiden test flight, as it happened its only flight before being scrapped. We know longer have a car industry nor any serious shipbuilding/steelmaking capability having led the world in each at one time or another. You wonder what we’ll do with the Olympics challenge.
Oh how President Sarkozy must have silently enjoyed seeing those news reports. The French it seems do these ‘grand projects’ bloody brilliantly; their motorway and fast rail system is the envy of the world and look at the stunning Millau bridge. Reassuringly though, Air France ground handlers are probably the worst in the world – never will I use their services again unless forced at gunpoint.
ps I read today (tues 1 april) that the avaiation minister has said there are something like 28,ooo bags of luggage in ‘temporary’ storage but separated from their owners of course. BA claim it is nearer 19,000. Whatever the number it’s a bloody disgraceful amount of passenger discomfort and distress. Nobody has seen fit to do the honourable thing and fall on their sword over it I see. Would you fly with BA at the moment? Thought not….