British Airways has delayed moving its long-haul flights to Heathrow's Terminal 5 by at least five weeks, admitting yesterday that it needs time to work out the kinks after the new hub's disastrous opening last month.
Willie Walsh, the chief executive, said he needs the extra time to avoid the "staff familiarisation issues" that the carrier blamed for problems that caused 600 flights to be cancelled and thousands of bags lost or delayed in the terminal's first days of operation. The airline originally planned to move its long-haul flights from Terminal 4 to the new terminal on 30 April. That will not happen until 5 June, and could be pushed back further.
Mr Walsh said: "There are remaining issues that need to be worked out, with the baggage system, with staff familiarity, so we thought this was a reasonable thing to do. We want to get all of these things completely sorted out before we double the number of passengers going through the building."
He said BAA, the airport operator responsible for the baggage system that shut down at the height of the chaos, also had residual problems to address. It was not until Tuesday last week, nearly two weeks after its much-ballyhooed opening, that BA operated a full schedule of flights from Terminal 5.
The announcement infuriated other airlines, which could see plans to move into the space vacated by BA delayed. Nigel Turner, the chief executive of BMI, called the move – presented by fiat by BA and BAA after more than 50 airlines had been consulted on the previous plan – "outrageous" and said that legal action was possible.