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.