back to article BA passengers caught in crossfire of Heathrow baggage meltdown

A fault in the baggage systems at Heathrow Terminals 3 and 5 this morning left passengers forced to travel without their belongings. The error came to light at about 6.45am UK time and passengers were told to pack their essentials in their hand luggage and get on their planes as planned. At about 9.15am, a spokeswoman for the …

  1. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge
    Joke

    Ouch!

    Nothing worse than gettin' kicked in the bag...

    ....in public... by BA

    1. NoneSuch
      Facepalm

      "passengers were told to pack their essentials in their hand luggage and get on their planes as planned."

      Anyone who travels without essentials in their hand luggage is asking for it. Bags go astray all the time. So often, I assume I'll not have my checked bags for 48 hours and plan accordingly.

      1. ps2os2

        About 20 years ago, I was leaving for vacation as I used to do every year. This year I was traveling to a remote island. I landed and went to the baggage area. After 2 hours I gave up and went to the airline's problem area. Nobody there. Couldn't report missing baggage because there was no one there. I stayed overnight at a hotel (planned). Next morning I went to pick up my luggage and of course, it wasn't there. After talking to some people they referred me to the "right" people. After explaining the issue, I was told since I waited overnight it was not a priority issue. I couldn't get through to them that there was no one there to report it to.

        So I took my next hop to a remote island where I stayed two weeks without luggage. I arrived at my home two weeks later and was called by the airline (United Air) that they found my baggage, great I thought but they want *ME* to pay to have the luggage delivered to my home. I called my travel agent and let her know what was going on and next day I had my luggage. Have no idea where it was for 2 weeks though.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "However, she said that the cause of the fault had not yet been established, and couldn't offer any further information on the systems affected."

    Was it Chai Time over in India? They are 5:30 ahead.

    1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
      Devil

      @AC

      No, it was yet again system failures as their power supply crossing over caused them to crash.

      No need to blame the off shore team for this... its a local pesky problem of an ignorant engineer who accidentally caused the problem which is why we need to move more jobs to India!

      Do I really need to add the <sarcasm> tags?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I stopped flying via Heathrow and using BA years ago, I suggest others do the same if they want to reach their destination along with their baggage and also not feeling like they have been treated like shit while paying through the nose for the privilege.

    1. MrXavia

      Not much choice for many long haul destinations, especially if you want to fly with a half decent airline, not BA though

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Fly from Manchester, Birmingham, or Edinburgh to a professionally run airport like Frankfurt or Amsterdam and connect to a professionally run airline like Lufthansa, KLM, or other international alliance.

        In most cases it's cheaper and it's always less stressful.

        1. MrXavia

          "Fly from Manchester, Birmingham, or Edinburgh to a professionally run airport like Frankfurt or Amsterdam and connect to a professionally run airline like Lufthansa, KLM, or other international alliance.

          In most cases it's cheaper and it's always less stressful."

          So you suggest adding in another 2 hour drive, atleast 2 hours layover, plus extra time in the air and the larger risk of missing bags vs flying direct from heathrow is a good idea?

          Plus you have the horrid tiny planes when flying to Europe, last time I flew via a European airline because it was cheaper, the long haul part was fine, the layover and short haul was hell....

        2. dvd

          I swore never to use KLM after they made me queue for EIGHT HOURS at the transfer desk at Schipol after missing a connection. It's fun to bad mouth BA but don't hold up another as better. The sad fact is that they are all shit.

        3. Tom 7 Silver badge

          @AC amsterdam klm

          I've been through Amsterdam with KLM over a dozen times. On every occasion either mine or the person I was travelling with lost baggage.

          I had the joy of coming down Kilimanjaro having climbed in borrowed gear (when you are 6'5" its fucking cold at 19000' wearing shorts!) to find my bags finally arrived at the airport.

          And always seem to have to run from one end of the airport to the other.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @AC amsterdam klm

            Schipol's not a bad airport, but KLM has gone downhill since Air France bough it. And their flights always seem to require me getting up at 3am, or arriving home at 6am. At least with BA I can get up at a normal 7am, and be home at lunchtime.

    2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      add CDG and FRA and ATL to the list

      Even an 8 hour transfer time was not enough at CDG last year.

      Getting to your destination with your bags is stll a matter of luck, the gods and a fair wind.

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: add CDG and FRA and ATL to the list

        Even an 8 hour transfer time was not enough at CDG last year.

        A friend of mine had her bags lost (well, delayed) twice on Air France flights. She complained, and they gave her a free ticket as compensation. Lost her bags on that flight, too.

    3. iRadiate

      Not always practical.

      I fly Heathrow to Canberra every 5 weeks. Choices are a 36 hour door to door trip with BA or a minimum of 42 hours door to door using alternative airlines and/or airports.

      Agree it's not the best airline out there. I don't get upgrades and other airlines have about an inch more leg room but I get to where I need to go in a reasonable time with very little time spent transiting. 40 minutes at Singapore.40 minutes at Sydney. Alternatives are KLM, Lufthansa or Emirates etc who all faff around in Dubai for hours on end.

      As for prices.

      BA charges me around £950 to £1000 each time. Price stay fairly constant. The others are around +/- £100. Virgin are £300 more expensive. My Luggage always gets to where it needs to. Never had a problem in that regard.

      People tend to jump on the bandwagon and knock companies like BA whenever they can but there are also other considerations such as safety.

      BA were rated 4th safest airline earlier this year. KLM 12, Lufthansa 13, Virgin 18, Air France and Emirates didn't even make it into the top 20 and to be honest in this current climate of fear I personally stay clear off all middle eastern airlines which probably makes me a racist :(

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      There are much worse airlines

      In 20-odd years of transatlantic flying I've had bags lost by Lufthansa and Air France, but never BA and never via Heathrow. YMMV

  4. Mattjimf

    Looks like Monty Python were right to be worried about it:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rdk-rHAndNc

    And yes I know it's not the retrival system.

  5. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    Hand luggage

    The airport initially dealt with the issue by asking passengers [...] pack "essential items" in their hand luggage.

    So security relaxed the rules on liquids being carried in the passenger cabin?

  6. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Related job ad?

      Resiliency appears to be missing from the ad....

  7. tiggity Silver badge

    Baggage load

    Surely this should be OK despite IT wobbles

    How much needless complexity has been added?

    Once baggage is checked in all it should need is labels stuck to it with human readable details of what flight it is going on (and can be manually filled in if needed) - - if there is something automated too far such as a bottleneck based on automated stuff reading flight barcodes to shunt baggage, well its not hard to print out barcodes onto sticky labels, my work PC has a load of various barcode fonts for use in testing barcode scanning code

    1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      Re: Baggage load

      Possibly a bit simplistic - I suspect they have a very complicated automatic system that can route many thousands of pieces of luggage onto approximately the right flight every day. If something in that system goes ffut then switching to a manual handwritten system would be no small job. It's a lot slower for a start. And then where do the horde of humans come from to read the handwritten labels and carry the bags to the aircraft?

      1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

        Re: Baggage load

        Yes - systems that are in place are very complicated, and can deal with mind-boggling volumes of baggage to myriad destinations.

        Trying to replace that with people in place of the machinery to maintain business as usual just isn't practical.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Baggage load

      Once baggage is checked in all it should need is labels stuck to it with human readable details of what flight it is going on (and can be manually filled in if needed) - - if there is something automated too far such as a bottleneck based on automated stuff reading flight barcodes to shunt baggage, well its not hard to print out barcodes onto sticky labels, my work PC has a load of various barcode fonts for use in testing barcode scanning code

      I fear it's a bit more complex than you think. You may find this video interesting - it shows you what a lot of work happens behind the scenes. I don't think there's much scope of fixing computer problems by sprinkling a handful of humans over that system, it's vast and there is a lot of manipulation and sorting going on.

      There are a few people involved, but by the looks of it they will be swamped as soon as the IT behind it goes TITSUP, to use the official El Reg terminology :).

    3. not.known@this.address Bronze badge

      Re: Baggage load

      Several thousand staff used to cover several shifts to move all the baggage around Heathrow, most of whom have been replaced by a complex system that makes Spaghetti Junction look like a Roman road... Instead of having to trundle the baggage half-way around the airport to get it from the gates to the Arrivals lounge (or from Departures), the baggage handlers take it from a point much closer to the aircraft you actually flew in on and leave it in the tender care of the automated routing system.

      If the automated system goes down, you suddenly need to find the staff to drive the tractors pulling the baggage carts as well as the staff to unload the carts and put the bags onto the carousels instead of just pulling them off the 'plane and onto the conveyors...

  8. EastFinchleyite

    Fail

    It is said that some companies are "too big to fail". Heathrow and its main user and sponsor, British Airways seem to be proving this adage wrong.

    Rather than spend their time and money (probably our money) on a third runway perhaps they should focus on getting their existing systems to work reliably. I live in the SE and regard LHR as my fourth choice after Gatwick, Luton and Stansted ( in no particullar order) . I also flew through Cardiff earlier this year. The extra hour traveling each way is more than made up for by the overall pleasantness and utility of the airport.

  9. Lusty Silver badge

    manual backup

    Where's the problem with customers carrying their bag to the plane then handing it to the baggage handler? Obviously it would need scanning for dangerous bottles of water and such, but I don't see a reason why this ended up with people abandoning possessions in the airport.

    On another note, what happenned next when hundreds of people left suitcases unattended and got on their flights? That announcement woman must have had a fit! Also confusing for passengers..

    desk attendant: "just pack your essentials in hand luggage and leave your suitcase"

    customer: "ok, I'm annoyed but fine"

    bingbong lady: "DO NOT leave luggage unattended, if you spot a bag etc."

    customer: "WFT?"

    1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      Re: manual backup

      The days of baggage handlers chucking individual bags into the hold are, I believe, generally long gone. Isn't most stuff containerised these days? And people go to the aircraft down those funny stretchy tunnels - how do their bags get down to ground level? And when would they all be weighed so they know the correct overall weight?

      1. Lusty Silver badge

        Re: manual backup

        "The days of baggage handlers chucking individual bags into the hold are, I believe, generally long gone"

        I've watched my bag going on the plane every flight I've been on. theres a conveyor belt into the plane but a man at each end. Massive international flights might be different, but even then nothing stopping passengers placing their bags in a container.

      2. Ivan Headache

        Re: manual backup

        Depends where you are. I've been on several flight in the last year were I can see the Baggage handler loading individual bags on the conveyor belt into the aircraft.

        I've also been on more than one where you walk to the plane with your carry-on and give it to a man who then passes it to another man inside the hold of the aircaft. All you get to take into the cabin is your man bag.

    2. EastFinchleyite

      Re: manual backup

      "Where's the problem with customers carrying their bag to the plane then handing it to the baggage handler?"

      There is a whole industry devoted to removing your bags from you as soon as you enter an airport, mangling them and getting some of them back to you at your arrival. Then charging the airlines (and ultimately you) for the privilege. Anyway, if you had to carry your own luggage to the aircraft it would be much more difficult to enjoy the shopping experience that is known as the "Departures Lounge". Its one of the reasons that the cheapies like EasyJet and RyanAir actively discourage you from taking hold luggage. They hate dealing with the baggage handlers as well.

      I have read that the original idea of check-in and baggage handling was to make air travel a luxury experience much like staying in a posh hotel. Your bags are handled all the way to your room and the airlines wanted to do the same with air travel. How things have changed! Air travel now is really squalid.

      Schipol and Paris CDG used to work very much like this some years ago but I doubt they let you do it now.

    3. milo5

      Re: manual backup

      Have you seen the amount of bags people bring on some flights at T5? TVs, engine parts, ten bags per person. They're happy to pay the excess baggage charges 'cause they'll still make a profit on whatever they're selling back home.

  10. davidhall121

    Timings

    If those timings are true I am properly pissed with BA. I got a 'baggage systems broken' text at 935 am.

    I subsequently got the all clear at 1138am - by which time I had repacked, abandoned most of my clothing assuming I would just buy at the other end - and was on route to T5.

    I feel a grumble to exec club coming on.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Timings

      Who will listen to you?

      1. Korev Silver badge

        Re: Timings

        Craptia... Unless David is quick

  11. Mark York 3 Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Safety In The Balance

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eZbH62Bn0oM

  12. Aleksandr Gekht

    Baggage problems at Heathrow?

    I arrived into Heathrow T5 on BA late evening on the 15/06. The flight was delayed by about 30 minutes with no explanation. My luggage did arrive fine, but the baggage hall was absolutely swamped with hundreds and hundreds of bags - I haven't seen anything like that in my many years of travel.

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