Another bad week to travel from London

Heathrow’s Terminal 5 opened this week to the sort of bumbling incompetence some have come to expect out of British engineering projects. Luggage handling was a mess, and at a point they were back to the draconian restrictions (“we will not handle any checked luggage”) that occurred at T4 last month. They are still expecting further flight cancellations today and tomorrow, and everyone is pointing fingers about what went wrong. It looks pretty simple to me: they moved too much stuff over there all at once without the staff being ready for it. A more gradual transition appears to have been justified by the confusion that resulted this week.

My own Heathrow trips have included flying the week of “all baggage must be checked and you can only carry on a plastic baggie with your passport” in the summer of 2006. Then there was the aftermath, the “only one carry-on bag” problem that was enforced on layovers at Heathrow but not in other airports in Europe, such that you would get to Heathrow with one bag too many and no way to deal with it. It is no wonder that one is then quite shocked to arrive at Heathrow to hear “no checked bags, only carry-on” when you had essentially been planning on the opposite. It’s mixed messages, people. And I guess it’s the nature of the draconian measures, the lack of a clear way forward, that bothers me most. When one is alone and travelling in a foreign country, as I am most of the time these days, you’re left with no easy alternative when faced with these instructions. You have nowhere to go, no way to get anywhere, no one to help.

But I admit, I am increasingly tempted to try the “carry-on only” approach on my next trips, especially now that I have the mini-laptop to save space and weight. Off to Austria this week, thank goodness not via Heathrow. Hopefully by the time of my next Heathrow (long-haul) trips, they will have ironed out the problems in T5.

Update: the commentary on the Guardian is much more biting than that linked above on the BBC, see this, this and this.


3 responses to “Another bad week to travel from London

  1. I am so distrustful of checked baggage that I spent two weeks visiting England from the States with only carry-on luggage. Fortunately for me, it was summer, which meant all clothing items were considerably less voluminous than in winter.

  2. > the sort of bumbling incompetence some have come to expect out of British engineering projects

    And what are we to expect of American engineering? I quote:

    “American Airlines has canceled thousands of flights this week for safety checks on its passenger planes. The FAA says the jetliners hadn’t been properly inspected, and several other U.S. carriers have had to cancel flights as well. To get through the logistical chaos, the airlines are shuffling passengers, empty planes, mechanics, inspectors — and a lot of paperwork. […]

    “The American terminal at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport is full of people who knew their flights would be grounded. […]

    “Some of them are standing around an automatic check-in kiosk at O’Hare that Onivi Kodovoh is trying to restart. It crashed trying to process more than 500 cancellations at once.

    “It stopped working on someone — it couldn’t scan passports anymore — so I am here to reprogram, load the software and have it working,” Kodovoh says.” […]

    (Source: )

    Perhaps people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones?

    Ever yours,


  3. > the sort of bumbling incompetence some have come to expect out of British engineering projects

    This statement made me laugh, a lot. It is so true. I am English and as a native I feel that I can tell you, we are all horrified at our own ridiculous behaviour when it comes to engineering projects. I’m thinking Wembly £798 million HOW? WHY? it opened very late and the legal disputes are still on going. I’m, thinking: Millennium Dome (£789 million) “The project was largely reported by the press to have been a flop: badly thought-out, badly executed, and leaving the government with the embarrassing question of what to do with it afterwards” – so, so British, expenisive, wasteful and, worst of all, ’embarrassing’. I love that we are embarrassed above all else, not ashamed or horrified or likely to do something about it. I’m sure there are many examples of our bumbling incompetence. It is talked about in pubs, exclaimed about in schools and workplaces and given ruinous cover in national papers but hey-ho, we carry on doing it. Bizzarre, yet British. I wish it would change!

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