A DISASTROUS opening day for Heathrow's flagship 4.3 billion Terminal 5 ended with British Airways having to suspend all baggage check-in at the new facility.
The decision, taken after a series of problems had wrecked what should have been a landmark day at the airport, meant travellers could only fly with carry-on hand luggage.
It completed what had been an utterly miserable few hours for many passengers, for BA and for airport operator BAA, with BA having to cancel 34 flights, including services to Glasgow and Aberdeen.
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After a good start to the day, with the first flight arriving eight minutes early and no luggage delays, problems accumulated.
First, staff had problems with the car park, then a computer problem led to some departing flights having to leave with no luggage aboard.
Downstairs in the giant building, passengers off the first Hong Kong flight all got their bags in quick time.
But soon it was clear there were major problems with baggage reclaim, with some passengers having to wait as long as two-and-a-half hours to collect their cases.
By lunch time the knock-on affect of all the problems led BA to cancel 20 flights – a figure which later increased to 34.
In early afternoon, a huge queue of more than 100 people wound back from the cancellation flights desk as people lined up to try to get away on other flights or get refunds.
To add to the difficulties the luggage belt in one part of the departure lounge failed and passengers were moved further down to a workable area.
Then at around 5pm, BA decided to suspend the checking in of all luggage going into the hold.
This left passengers already at the airport with the choice of either flying with just hand luggage, getting an alternative flight or getting their money back.
The Department for Transport said tonight: "We expect British Airways and BAA to work hard to resolve these issues and limit disruption to passengers."
BA said: "British Airways flights from Heathrow Terminal 5 will depart with hand baggage only with immediate effect due to problems associated with processing customers' baggage.
"BAA and British Airways are advising customers to check-in at Terminal 5 with hand baggage only if they wish to travel tonight or to telephone the airline for a refund or to rebook.
"Customers already at Terminal 5 who have not yet checked-in can travel with hand baggage only, rebook their travel plans or receive a refund.
"BA apologises to customers for the problems during Terminal 5's first day of operations following one of the most complex and largest airport moves in history.
"Customers can telephone 0800 727800 or check ba.com for the latest information. Customers departing from Heathrow Terminal 1 and Terminal 4 should check-in as normal."