Government criticises BA for “unacceptable” situation

The baggage build-up at T5 as a result of the failure of its automated baggage-handling system is continuing to disrupt flights.

A further 50 are to be cancelled tomorrow, on top of the 350 already cancelled so far since the £4.3bn terminal's opening last Thursday.

In a statement to MPs, UK aviation minister Jim Fitzpatrick criticised the “unacceptable” situation and said the airline should place “much greater emphasis” on passengers' needs.

He said that the backlog of 28,000 bags could take up to a week to clear. However, BA itself admits only to a figure of 19,000 bags remaining to be checked and returned to their owners.

One of the passengers who lost his bags in the chaos was Vuk Jeremic, the Serbian foreign minister.

UK foreign secretary David Miliband recounted in his blog how the minister - whom he did not name - had been told the bags could take weeks to find.

Miliband said: “He asked me to pass on a message to BA/BAA: 'For goodness' sake, get your act together'."

David Davis, the Conservative shadow home secretary, has called the situation “a dreadful national embarrassment”.

Analysts have forecast that the disruption could cost BA between £25 million and £50 million and may cause the airline to miss its profit targets. Pressure was mounting on Willie Walsh, the airline's chief executive, after the BA share price fell yesterday.

The problems at T5 may force BA to postpone the transfer of its long-haul operations at T4 to the new building, which had been planned for the end of this month.