Heathrow terminal chaos costs BA £16m

The Heathrow Terminal 5 debacle hit British Airways’ monthly passenger figures for March 2008, it was revealed today.

The Heathrow Terminal 5 debacle hit British Airways’ monthly passenger figures for March 2008, it was revealed today.

Despite the benefit of an early Easter, BA carried just under 2.72 million passengers last month – a 2.8% dip on the March 2007 total.

BA said the financial impact of the events surrounding the T5 opening – with dozens of flights cancelled and thousands of bags still not back with passengers - was “estimated to be around £16 m (€20.4m)”.

The cancellation of flights at T5 have been centred on domestic and short-haul European routes.

BA’s UK and European passenger levels fell 2.8% last month, while passenger numbers to North and South America were 0.6% down, with Asia Pacific down 6.0% and Africa and the Middle East down 5.7%.

Premium traffic – the number of passengers travelling in first and business class seats – was down 5.0% last month while non-premium (economy-seat) traffic fell 2.3%.

BA planes travelled 75.4% full last month compared with 76.3% in March 2007.

BA said: “The figures also reflect the events which surrounded the opening of Terminal 5 on March 27. The impact was borne by the short-haul schedule, where there were 300 cancelled flights, equating to 0.2% of capacity.

“The financial impact of these events is estimated to be around £16m (€20.4m), reflecting all costs associated with the disruption and lost revenue opportunities. Although there remains a small number of cancellations for today and tomorrow, the Terminal 5 performance is steadily improving.

BA went on: “Comparisons between March 2007 and March 2008 are complicated by the timing of Easter, which fell in April in 2007, and by the de-linking of UK school holidays from the Easter period and into the middle of April.

“This altered both premium and non-premium travel patterns, an impact which is also likely to be seen in April’s statistics.”

BA cancelled 34 flights at T5 today and said it would operate a full schedule of flights on Saturday when the number of flights due to take off and land is lower than on weekdays.

Baggage handlers are still sorting through 14,000 pieces of luggage lost in the chaos as flights took off with passengers but no bags on board.

Bags being returned to addresses in mainland Europe have already been sent to Milan where they are being sorted by a contractor, reducing the original 18,000-piece bag mountain.

BA also confirmed reports that a Chicago-bound flight left Terminal 4 yesterday empty of both passengers and crew as a result of staff shortages.

But their spokeswoman said: “This is nothing to do with staffing in T5, it was as a result of unrelated issues and I am not aware of any flights today suffering the same problem.”

Travellers arriving to catch flights today enjoyed a smoothly running system. The departures hall in T5 was fairly empty as passengers moved swiftly from check-in through security and into the airside portion of the building.

After using the internet check-in points, few passengers had to queue at all to drop their bags off.

Meanwhile, low-fare airline Ryanair announced today that it had carried 4.48 million passengers in March 2008 – a 19% rise on the March 2007 figure.

Its planes flew 79% full last month – a 1% increase on March 2007.

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