Leading article: Lost luggage and terminal decline

Share
Related Topics

When any large building project is completed on time and on budget in modern Britain, it is hard not to cheer – even when that project is something of such dubious merit as a new terminal at Heathrow Airport.

Yet there was noticeably little cheer around yesterday as Terminal 5 opened its doors to passengers for the first time. Travellers found their appreciation of the splendid view from Richard Rogers' glass and steel construction marred by cancelled flights, parking problems, staff shortages and non-functioning escalators. Most embarrassingly, the "sophisticated" luggage processing system failed. This was not the check-in paradise that passengers had been promised.

And further problems lie in wait. The layout of the terminal, which allows domestic and international passengers to mingle in the same area, will create a security headache. Heathrow's operator, BAA, was planning to fingerprint domestic passengers to get around this problem, but was forced to drop this scheme last week after the Information Commissioner found this an unwarranted invasion of privacy. The question of what method will be used to keep track of passengers is still being negotiated.

Despite yesterday's chaos, there was still a fair amount of shopping done.

All BAA's airports are replete with shops, but Terminal 5, with its 23,000 square metres of retail space feels more like a shopping mall than a transport hub.

It is no mystery as to why. Ferrovial, the Spanish firm that owns BAA, took on a huge and expensive amount of debt to buy the operator two years ago. Ferrovial needs to meet its payments – and cramming shops into its terminal buildings is one of the simplest ways to crank up income. Raising the landing fees charged to airlines is another. The excuse for the latest hike is higher security costs, but it is actually to help Ferrovial finance its debts. And that is also why BAA is pushing so hard for a third runway at Heathrow. An extra runway means more flights. More flights means more fees and more shopping passengers. Yet it also means more damaging carbon emissions.

Despite this, it is in our interests that Terminal 5 improves on yesterday's awful performance. For good or ill, Heathrow is a gateway to Britain and those gateways should be efficient and welcoming.

But the point of the demonstrators who congregated at the new terminal yesterday was well made. This must not be the first step on the road to a new runway, or an increase in flights.

Terminal 5 should be the final destination as far as UK aviation growth is concerned.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

JavaScript Developer (C++ / C# / HTML, Java Angular.js) London

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A world leading business intellig...

Application Support Analyst-(UNIX, Linux, Financial Services)

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Application Support Analyst-(UNIX...

Application Support Analyst - SQL, UNIX, Linux

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Application Support Analyst - SQL...

Application Support - FIX protocol, UNIX, SQL, Windows, OMS

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Application Support - FIX protoco...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letters: The West flounders in the Middle East morass

Independent Voices
David Tennant as Hamlet  

To vote no or not to vote no, that is the question... Although do celebrities really have the answer?

David Lister
All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition