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Mon, Apr 14, 2008

Lost Heathrow Baggage Could Face Fiery Fate

Company Says Unclaimed Luggage May Also Be Auctioned

If you can't beat 'em... or, find their rightful owners... burn 'em. That seems to be the likely fate for thousands of as-yet unclaimed bags, lost in the recent operations meltdown at the new Terminal 5 at London Heathrow.

An estimated 28,000 bags have gone missing since the March 27 grand opening of Terminal 5, which is slated to be the flagship terminal for British Airways... if ongoing woes are ever sorted out, that is. As ANN has reported, T5 has been plagued by technical glitches, employee fistfights, stranded passengers, rampaging supermodels, and wintry weather -- pretty much everything but locusts.

British Airways -- none-to-eager to face yet another public relations problem stemming from its woes at T5 -- vehemently denies unclaimed bags will be burned... but that differs from an account given by an employee with the company tasked with the unenviable job of sorting through the carrier's lost luggage.

"All our BA bags that are untraceable are sent back to BA and then they are destroyed in an incinerator," Giovanni Tinelli, a worker with Milan-based Onboard Express, told the London Daily Mail.

Every effort is being made to match the missing bags to their rightful owners, the company added. Lost bags might also be put up for auction after six months.

In related news, lawmakers are taking British Airways, along with airport operator BAA, to task for the T5 fiasco. This weekend, Minister for London Tessa Jowell said the incident has "damaged London," adding "BAA has to be responsible in a sense for every bit of lost business to London."

For its part, British Airways says it's continuing to work on restoring order to chaos... and is holding off on plans to move 120 long-haul flights to the new terminal until June, at the earliest.

"Customers who have made a booking from Terminal 5 will fly from Terminal 4," said British Airways CEO Willie Walsh. "If there are transfer passengers that this impacts then we will offer a refund and rebooking.

"I accept responsibility for the issues we encountered at T5, particularly on the first day. We have some issues that have challenged us since then," Walsh continued. "There is little value or merit in trying to apportion blame. It is clear that we got things wrong."

FMI: www.ba.com, www.baa.com

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