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British Airways Passengers Forced to Wait Five Hours For Their Bags and Flights Leave Without Any Luggage After Yet Another IT Meltdown

British Airways Passengers Forced to Wait Five Hours For Their Bags and Flights Leave Without Any Luggage After Yet Another IT Meltdown

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British Airways passengers arriving at the airline’s main hub at Heathrow Terminal 5 on Tuesday evening were forced to wait more than five hours for their bags after the mishap-prone carrier suffered yet another IT meltdown.

The problems started at around 2 pm on Tuesday when a computerised resource management system that allocates baggage handlers to planes to load and offload luggage failed, meaning that BA had to revert to a manual process.

The IT system remained out of service for at least nine hours, and the impact was quickly felt by passengers as thousands of customers arriving at Heathrow discovered that bags weren’t making it to the baggage reclaim hall.

Heathrow Airport warned of serious overcrowding in the Terminal 5 baggage reclaim hall as some passengers endured waits of more than five hours for their luggage to appear on the carousels.

In the end, British Airways started ordering customers to leave the airport without their bags to relieve the congestion, which, by this point, had stretched back to the immigration hall.

It wasn’t, however, just arriving bags that were hit by the IT failure. Thousands of bags that were meant to be loaded onto departing flights were left behind as BA struggled to get on top of the situation and get baggage handlers where they were meant to be.

Just three months ago, British Airways had boasted that it was spending £750 million to update its dilapidated IT systems, including a £100 million investment in AI to improve its baggage handling systems.

The investment is part of a wider £7 billion transformation plan that BA hopes will improve pretty much every aspect of its business, although the change is taking longer than once-loyal customers would have hoped.

British Airways has warned customers that it could take at least three days for them to be reunited with their missing luggage with the airline now calling in head office employees to help on the front line to manually sort through thousands of bags that have stacked up across Terminal 5.

Over the last couple of years, BA has struggled with its baggage handling operations, although most of those problems have been attributed to the airline’s failure to hire and retain enough baggage handlers.

Problems are particularly acute over weekends, public holidays and national events, and BA has refused to introduce any baggage guarantee that would give customers the confidence that their bags should reach the carousel in a certain amount of time.

Matt’s take

Is it any wonder that passengers will do literally anything to avoid checking in a case when a major airline like British Airways repeatedly has problems returning checked luggage to customers in a timely fashion?

Thankfully, British Airways has a very generous hand luggage allowance but it could alleviate a lot of its headaches over hand luggage management and departure punctuality if customers had the confidence to check in their luggage.

That kind of confidence will only come when customers know that their luggage is, firstly, going to actually show up on the carousel and, secondly, that it will show up quickly and in good condition.

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