Commons report slams BA and BAA for 'serious failings' and 'hoping for the best'

The disastrous opening of Heathrow airport's Terminal 5 was a “national embarrassment” and showed “serious failings” from British Airways and airport operator BAA.

That is the conclusion of the House of Commons transport committee, which today publishes a report into the opening of the £4.3bn terminal in March.

The MPs said that the problems, which included cancelled flights and lost baggage, were the result of bad planning and “insufficient communication” between the companies in charge.

Committee chairwoman Louise Ellman said: “What should have been an occasion of national pride was in fact an occasion of national embarrassment.”

She added: “We were struck by how much 'hoping for the best' BAA had engaged in prior to the opening of T5.”

Poor training of staff and testing of systems by British Airways are also criticised for the failures, which led to more than 23,000 bags having to be manually sorted.

“We acknowledge the inevitability of 'teething problems' but deeply regret that so many were allowed to bring the operation of Heathrow's newest terminal to a halt,” the report says.

BAA bosses Sir Nigel Rudd and Colin Matthews also came under personal attack for being “unhelpful and ill prepared” when they appeared before the committee.

Both companies have apologised for the fiasco and BAA said it had noted the report's findings.

Meanwhile, a BA spokesman said: “T5's opening is history. Its present is a great success. We are resolutely committed to keeping it so.”