Select committee accuse BAA chief executive Colin Matthews of 'ignorance' in terminal fiasco

Incomplete construction work has been cited as a major contributing factor in T5’s disastrous opening by British Airways’ chief executive Willie Walsh.

Walsh blames BAA for T5 chaos

He told MPs at a Transport Select Committee hearing yesterday that staff familiarisation suffered as a result of BAA failing to finish the building on time meaning staff were disorientated and unable to cope when the airport opened on March 27: “We made some mistakes and in particular compromised on the testing regime as a consequence of delays in the building of the terminal and this did impact on the T5 opening.”

There was further embarrassment for BAA at the select committee hearing yesterday as BAA’s chief executive, Colin Matthews, said he “was unaware” that T5 was not ready to open despite the list of building glitches including lifts not working, problems with jetties and the baggage handling system being read out.

His responses and decision to shelve an internal review of the failure immediately after the event drew harsh criticism from the MPs who accused Matthews and BAA Chairman Sir Nigel Rudd of being “complacent” and “poorly prepared” for the hearing. Graham Stringer said: “You are not being very helpful. Your defence appears to be ignorance. I have been on this committee for a very long time and I have never heard the excuse that a witness has been too busy to come prepared with detailed answers to the questions. I find it extraordinary. Are you hiding something?”

Matthews retaliated saying he had simply been focussing his efforts on sorting out T5’s problems and getting the building to work effectively rather than launching an internal review of the failure.

Sir Nigel Rudd said that the group would be conducting an internal review of the opening in the next two months and MPs requested BAA representatives attend another meeting when they “are actually able to answer the questions put to them.”