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

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Senior Research Fellow in Gender, Food and Resilient Communities

£47,334 - £59,058 per annum: Coventry University: The Centre for Agroecology, ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Today is a bigger Shabbes than usual in the Jewish world because it has been chosen to launch the Shabbos Project  

Shabbes exerts a pull on all Jews, and today is bigger than ever

Howard Jacobson
 

If Renee Zellweger wants to look different, who are we to question it?

Boyd Tonkin
Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker