BA hikes fuel fees as chaos hits T4

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The Independent Online

On the same day that British Airways foisted a twelfth fuel surcharge increase on to passengers, the carrier refused travel to some passengers due to a technical fault that disabled the baggage check-in system at Heathrow's Terminal 4.

The system failure affected all airlines using the terminal, including KLM and Air Malta, although BA, the largest operator there, was the only one to prohibit travel for some economy and premium economy passengers after a technical fault in the software system brought the belts that transfer luggage from the check-in desks to the aeroplanes to a standstill. All other airlines handled baggage manually. BAA, the airport operator, worked through the night to try to restore the service by this morning.

BA was offering ticket refunds or to reschedule flights for later dates or alternative destinations.

It is expected to try to extract compensation from BAA, with whom it already has a strained relationship, sources said. BA declined to comment on whether it would do so.

The episode came a day after a survey revealed the carrier lost more bags than any other airline.

In a message posted on its website yesterday, BA said that economy passengers flying from the terminal would be prohibited from travelling if they brought baggage to be checked in.

First and business-class passengers were unaffected as the separate belt system that takes bags from the check-in desk to the aeroplane were functioning normally.

The failure was another black eye for BAA, the highly indebted airport operator that has been lobbying hard to increase the fees it can charge airlines in order to fund a wide-ranging upgrade of facilities of the world's busiest airport.

BA risked further passenger backlash yesterday by pushing through its twelfth fuel surcharge increase. The £12 rise brings the total fuel fees to £128 for return fares for long-haul flights of more than nine hours. Short-haul charges were unchanged.