Christmas chaos at Heathrow: BA passengers are sent home before they can collect their bags

BA passengers are today facing pre-Christmas travel ‘chaos’ at Heathrow Airport with cancelled flights, queues at the border and a sea of stranded luggage strewn across baggage reclaim.

Astonishing pictures and video show unattended suitcases scattered around conveyor belts at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 last night, with one passenger describing it as ‘complete chaos’. 

Some passengers were even told to go home and leave their luggage at the airport – and have it sent to their address – instead of facing long waits to get their bags.

Meanwhile, at least half a dozen BA flights from the west-London airport have been cancelled today. Pictures show long lines of people queuing for Passport Control at Heathrow, which is operated by the UK’s Border Force.

BA chiefs have blamed a combination of fog and staffing shortages due to Covid for the delays and said staff are working ‘extremely hard’ to fix the issues. 

Heathrow say baggage in Terminal 5, which is exclusively used by BA and its sister airline Iberia, is the responsibility of BA.

The ‘chaos’ comes at one of the busiest times for air travel, with tens thousands of people making their way to the UK to be with their families for Christmas.

It also comes as passengers into Manchester Airport yesterday also faced delays of up to three hours in crammed lines for more than three hours with ‘no social distancing or air conditioning’.

Last week travellers also faced huge delays at Heathrow’s border hall after the e-gates broke, leaving border staff to manually process thousands of passengers.

BA passengers are today facing pre-Christmas travel 'chaos' at Heathrow Airport with cancelled flights, queues at the border and a sea of stranded luggage strewn across baggage reclaim

Astonishing pictures and video show unattended suitcases scattered around conveyor belts at Heathrow's Terminal 5 last night, with one passenger describing it as 'complete chaos'

BA passengers are today facing pre-Christmas travel ‘chaos’ at Heathrow Airport with cancelled flights, queues at the border and a sea of stranded luggage strewn across baggage reclaim.

Astonishing pictures and video show unattended suitcases scattered around conveyor belts at Heathrow's Terminal 5 last night, with one passenger describing it as 'complete chaos'

Astonishing pictures and video show unattended suitcases scattered around conveyor belts at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 last night, with one passenger describing it as ‘complete chaos’

At least half a dozen BA flights from the west-London airport have been cancelled today, while pictures show long lines of people queuing for Border Control at Heathrow

BA chiefs have blamed a combination of fog and staffing shortages due to Covid for the delays

At least half a dozen BA flights from the west-London airport have been cancelled today, while pictures show long lines of people queuing for Border Control at Heathrow. BA chiefs have blamed a combination of fog and staffing shortages due to Covid for the delays.

Heathrow passengers also took to Twitter to share photographs of people queuing in the corridors waiting to get through to Passport Control

Heathrow passengers also took to Twitter to share photographs of people queuing in the corridors waiting to get through to Passport Control

But after last week’s disruption, delays struck again yesterday at Heathrow, with BA chiefs blaming fog on Sunday morning for setting back their flight schedule.

Airline bosses said flights had to be delayed or cancelled due to bad visibility, causing huge delays throughout the day and into last night.

Queue chaos at Manchester Airport: Hundreds of passengers are forced to wait for ‘three hours’

Passengers flying from Manchester Airport to Spain were forced to wait in crammed lines for more than three hours with ‘no social distancing or air conditioning’.

Ian Gold was due to fly with his wife, and their two daughters but their flight was delayed due to the ‘infuriating’ situation at the airport.

He said seven of ten security gates were closed and only one boarding pass was open, resulting in the queues ‘growing and growing’ up to more than 1,000 people.

Mr Gold blamed the issues on ‘staff shortages’ and said people in the queue were talking about cuts that had been made at the airport.

Manchester Airport has lost almost 500 members of its workforce to redundancy over the past 12 months due to plummeting passenger numbers as a result of the pandemic and the associated travel restrictions.

A spokesman for the airport told MailOnline said the longer security queues were due to a ‘greater number of passengers than expected, and a higher-than-usual rate of staff absence’.

Passengers travelling to Spain from the UK are currently required to fill in and sign an online health control form and must show a QR code, generated from the form, on arrival at a Spanish airport.

Tourists to Spain must show proof they have received at least two doses of a coronavirus vaccine, while EU citizens or those accompanying EU citizens may present alternative documentation to a vaccine certificate.

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And they say this was made worse due to a wave of Covid related sickness and staff being forced to self-isolate.

MailOnline understand the delays became so bad at one point that passengers were told to go home and leave their baggage at the airport to be collected by BA staff and sent to their address.

This resulted in a sea of unclaimed baggage building up beside the conveyor belts before it was pulled together and moved to a safe location. 

One passenger to pass through the airport yesterday, Nicola Woods, who was travelling from Heathrow to Edinburgh, told MailOnline: ‘I flew yesterday with BA and it was chaos. Several flights were cancelled. 

‘My flight was meant to leave at 6.30pm but was pushed back and pushed back so didn’t leave until 8.30pm.

‘Once we landed we were told that none of our cases had been put on the plane. 

‘The passenger next to me had his flight to Inverness cancelled so had taken the Edinburgh flight and was planning to take a train to finally pick up his car and drive home. 

‘Still no word from BA as to when we can expected our cases.’

Some passengers however told MailOnline that their baggage had been lost. One passenger travelling into Heathrow last night took to Twitter to share his experience.  

Jack Lawrence, a  biomedical science masters student, wrote on Twitter: ‘Big queues to get out of the airport for those whose flights have been cancelled too. 

‘Apparently luggage from all the cancelled flights is also all being chucked on the same luggage carousel. There’s so much chaos with bags – both from cancelled and actual flights that British airways is now suggesting people go home and submit a missing baggage claim.’ 

Others also described the situation as ‘complete chaos’. Natalia Kaliada said on Twitter: ‘Complete chaos at Heathrow. Massive delays of getting the luggage.

‘No system in place. People are strongly advised to leave without their luggage. Christmas Vibe!’

Another passenger wrote: ‘BA – Just started our honeymoon and our bags are stuck at Heathrow, your customer service phone line is not open and the missing bag reporting system will only let us log a report for one of our bags.’ 

Meanwhile, BA flights to Malaga, Barcelona, Glasgow and Amsterdam from Heathrow have been cancelled today.

One flight to Germany, which yesterday introduced a travel ban for UK tourists, has also been cancelled. 

A spokesperson for BA told MailOnline: ‘We’ve apologised to customers whose flights were cancelled due to operational constraints. 

‘Our teams are working extremely hard to get our customers rebooked and on their way as quickly as possible.’

There also reportedly delays at Border Control, with pictures last night showing long queues on the approach to passport control.

One passenger wrote: ‘Heathrow Airport needs to pull up its pants. It’s chaos.’ 

Border Control is the responsibility of Border Force, which falls under the Home Office, who have been contacted for comment. Heathrow meanwhile said the issues at Terminal 5 were down to individual airlines.

It comes as passengers flying from Manchester Airport to Spain were forced to wait in crammed lines for more than three hours with ‘no social distancing or air conditioning’.

Ian Gold was due to fly with his wife, and their two daughters but their flight was delayed due to the ‘infuriating’ situation at the airport.

Were you caught in the BA chaos at Heathrow? 

Contact me with your experience and pictures at: james.robinson@mailonline.co.uk 

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He said seven of ten security gates were closed and only one boarding pass was open, resulting in the queues ‘growing and growing’ up to more than 1,000 people.

Mr Gold blamed the issues on ‘staff shortages’ and said people in the queue were talking about cuts that had been made at the airport.

Manchester Airport has lost almost 500 members of its workforce to redundancy over the past 12 months due to plummeting passenger numbers as a result of the pandemic and the associated travel restrictions.

A spokesman for the airport told MailOnline said the longer security queues were due to a ‘greater number of passengers than expected, and a higher-than-usual rate of staff absence’.

Passengers travelling to Spain from the UK are currently required to fill in and sign an online health control form and must show a QR code, generated from the form, on arrival at a Spanish airport.

Tourists to Spain must show proof they have received at least two doses of a coronavirus vaccine, while EU citizens or those accompanying EU citizens may present alternative documentation to a vaccine certificate.

Mr Gold, his wife, and two daughters started queuing at Manchester Airport at 12pm today and got to the front three hours and 45 minutes later.

Calling it a ‘real disgrace’, Mr Gold said: ‘There’s old people with sticks and no where to sit, there’s no ventilation, there’s no social distancing.

He said his flight was due to take off at 4.10pm but had to be delayed until 5.45pm as a result of the queues.

He added: ‘There was a gentleman flying to Saudi Arabia in absolute panic because the flight was either gone or about to go.

A lady with two young babies was trying to get through. It was just a disaster zone.

‘This is important. We are talking about social distancing. It should be run properly. I’ve never seen anything like it.’  

Ian Gold said he and his family were forced to queue for more than three hours at Manchester Airport on Sunday afternoon

Ian Gold said he and his family were forced to queue for more than three hours at Manchester Airport on Sunday afternoon 

Mr Gold said there was no possibility to social distance in the queue and there was a lack of air conditioning. A spokesman for Manchester Airport said the longer security queues were 'due to there being a greater number of passengers than expected, and a higher-than-usual rate of staff absence'

Mr Gold said there was no possibility to social distance in the queue and there was a lack of air conditioning. A spokesman for Manchester Airport said the longer security queues were ‘due to there being a greater number of passengers than expected, and a higher-than-usual rate of staff absence’

‘Seven security gates are closed out of 10. That is infuriating, it really is.

‘Everyone is next to each other. There’s no air conditioning. It is scorching. I am furious about it. There are people in their 70s and 80s, they are literally trying to run to their planes. The line just kept growing and growing.’

Mr Gold said only one boarding pass gate was operating, while all the others were closed. 

A spokesperson for Manchester Airport told MailOnline: ‘We have, at times this weekend, experienced longer security queues than we would like. This is due to there being a greater number of passengers than expected, and a higher-than-usual rate of staff absence.

‘Our customer service staff continue to do all they can to assist passengers.

‘Wherever possible, travellers are being prioritised within the queue, but we are aware some people have unfortunately missed flights and, along with their airlines, we have been working to support their onward travels as best we can.

‘Due to additional pre-departures checks, as countries update guidance for travel, it is very important that passengers arrive at least three hours before their scheduled flight time if they have to check in and drop bags. They can arrive two hours before if travelling just with hand luggage. Passengers should also familiarise themselves with security rules, especially if they haven’t travelled for some time.

‘We apologise to all affected for any inconvenience caused and are working to rectify the situation as soon as we can.’ 

It comes after passengers last week blasted Heathrow for huge queues snaking through the airport.

Passengers claimed that there were up to four thousand people backed up at passport control due to yet another e-gate crashing.

They said that they were waiting for hours to get to the immigration area when it would take around six minutes normally. 

John Grimshaw flew back to Britain from his home in Chicago for his mother’s funeral and got caught up in the disorder.

He said that there were thousands of passengers queuing to get to passport control and branded Heathrow ‘a joke’.

He told MailOnline: ‘Just arrived from Chicago. E-gates down again, thousands of people lined up for passport control.

‘What the f***. I paid thousands for a business class ticket and no difference. This place is a joke. I was just told the e-gates were down and were being worked on.

Passengers claimed that there were up to four thousand people backed up at passport control (pictured today) due to yet another e-gate crashing

Passengers claimed that there were up to four thousand people backed up at passport control (pictured today) due to yet another e-gate crashing

They said that they were waiting for hours to get to the immigration area when it would take around six minutes normally (pictured today)

They said that they were waiting for hours to get to the immigration area when it would take around six minutes normally (pictured today)

‘I’m where it’s normally six minutes walk to the immigration area and we are stood still. There are probably three to four thousand people here.

He added: ‘Ten plus wide body aircraft arrived with 300 plus on each. This is unacceptable for this country’s principal airport.’

Others slammed Heathrow for the traffic on social media, with one saying ‘it is adding even more stress to an already stressful situation’.

Gerry Green wrote on Twitter: ‘Was in Immigration queue in Heathrow today, no social distancing, hot and sweaty, only two humans checking passports.

‘Then six more appear. No riot just comments about tea breaks etc. British humour still exists, despite mushroom treatment.’

And one person wrote online: ‘Isn’t there a way to better improve the queues and waiting times to check in at Heathrow T2?’

Teaching assistant Maan Harbi added last night: ‘We are supposed to departure at 15:00 but we are still on the ground 17:00 due to a technical issue with luggage system.’

Meanwhile Britons blasted Heathrow for the extra cost of parking their car while they were in hotel quarantine before the rules changed this morning.

Graham Else said he will have to pay £350 on top of his £2,450 stay in isolation due to the pricey parking at the airport.

He told the Telegraph: ‘My wife and I are caught up in the quarantine hotel debacle and arrived on December 8. I tried to extend my T5 Heathrow Long Term parking on the 9th, but was unable to do so online because my booked period had elapsed.

‘I now have the prospect of paying £33 per day for the excess days which means I will have a bill of more than £350 when my original term was approximately £140 for 21 days.’

He added: ‘My wife and I are pensioners and you can probably appreciate the impact of the hotel quarantine charge on our finances, so this extra whammy really hurts.’  

Heathrow increases cost of airport charges from £22 to £30 – adding £200 to the price of a family trip to Florida – as ex-BA boss Willie Walsh and Virgin Atlantic slam ‘greedy’ shareholders 

Holidaymakers and frequent flyers will face yet more misery next year, with Heathrow set to hike the price it charges airlines by more than £8 per passenger.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has given the west London airport the green light to increase passenger charges to £30.19 from January 1 – up from £22 this year.

Bosses at the airport had wanted to set the charge – paid by airlines but generally passed on to customers – to a staggering £43 from January.

Heathrow chiefs argued the steep increase in the airport levy, which covers the costs of operating terminals, baggage systems and security, would help the business recover from its £3.4billion Covid losses.

But the CAA stepped in to cap the increase at £30.19 for next year, having previously consulted on a figure of £29.50 per passenger.

The authority said the final £30.19 figure, announced on Thursday, reflects ‘the uncertainty of the recovery of passenger volumes’ due to Covid. 

But Heathrow chiefs say they are ‘extremely disappointed’ in the figure. Bosses of the airport say the increase is not enough and warn that it risks leaving the airport ‘without sufficient cashflow’.

Meanwhile, airline bosses including ex-BA chief Willie Walsh and bosses at Virgin Atlantic accused Heathrow chiefs of ‘greed’.

Others warned the hike could put passengers off flying, with Virgin Atlantic saying the increase adds up to £200 to the cost of a family trip to Florida. 

Holidaymakers and frequent flyers will face yet more misery next year, with Heathrow set to hike the price it charges airlines by more than £8 per person. Pictured: Library image

Meanwhile, Willie Walsh, the former boss of BA, attacked the 'greed' of Heathrow's predominantly overseas shareholders

Bosses at Virgin Atlantic, founded by Sir Richard Branson, said the move 'defies belief and fails to protect consumers'

Willie Walsh (pictured left), the former boss of BA, attacked the ‘greed’ of Heathrow’s predominantly overseas shareholders, while bosses at Virgin Atlantic, founded by Sir Richard Branson (pictured right), said the move ‘defies belief and fails to protect consumers’

However a spokesperson for Heathrow said: ‘We are extremely disappointed in this interim decision from the CAA.

‘It relies on rushed analysis and will undermine passenger experience at the UK’s hub airport.

‘As an example, the CAA’s flawed analysis assumes that operating costs at Heathrow next year will be £173 million lower than our budget.

‘This is even lower than we were able to achieve in 2020, when we served half as many passengers with only one runway and two terminals operating and the benefit of a Government furlough scheme.

‘There are material and basic errors in many aspects of the CAA’s assessment.

‘Uncorrected, this risks leaving Heathrow without sufficient cashflow to support investment in improving passenger service and resilience.’

However, Luis Gallego, chief executive of British Airways’ parent company IAG, said the firm is ‘disappointed that Heathrow charges will increase further’.

‘The UK’s economic recovery depends on its ability to compete on the global stage,’ he said.

‘Heathrow is already 44 per cent more expensive than its European competitors. The reality is around 40 per cent of Heathrow passengers are connecting to other destinations and could easily travel via other European hubs.

‘After the worst crisis in aviation history we need to attract demand to stay competitive.

‘Hiking charges will have the opposite effect. Britain will become not more competitive, but less.

‘A cost-efficient Heathrow would benefit UK consumers, businesses and trade. Global Britain needs a global and competitive hub.’ 

Willie Walsh, the former boss of BA, previously attacked the ‘greed’ of Heathrow’s predominantly overseas shareholders.

Bosses of Virgin Atlantic, founded by businessman Sir Richard Branson, meanwhile said the move ‘defies belief and fails to protect consumers’.

Shai Weiss, CEO, Virgin Atlantic said: ”Today’s decision enables Heathrow, already the world’s most expensive airport, to increase charges in 2022 as its owners seek to recoup their pandemic losses and secure hundreds of millions in dividends to shareholders.

‘The CAA has failed in its duty to protect the British consumer. Together with industry partners, we will now consider options to appeal to the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA), so that passengers are protected from these egregious proposals and ensure the CAA fulfils its duties.

‘Just as UK airlines raised significant funds from shareholders in order to clear a path to recovery, it’s only right that Heathrow turns to its equity owners first, rather than expecting consumers and industry to shoulder the burden. 

‘Abusing its unique position as the UK’s only hub airport, an increase of Heathrow charges on this scale will hurt the UK’s economic recovery, damage Global Britain aspirations and unfairly hit the pockets of families and businesses around the nation.’ 

Luis Gallego (pictured), chief executive of British Airways' parent company IAG, said the firm is 'disappointed that Heathrow charges will increase further

Shai Weiss (pictured), CEO, Virgin Atlantic said: 'The Civil Aviation Authority’s decision defies belief and fails to protect consumers.'

Luis Gallego, chief executive of British Airways’ parent company IAG, said the firm is ‘disappointed that Heathrow charges will increase further’. Shai Weiss (pictured right), CEO, Virgin Atlantic said: ‘The Civil Aviation Authority’s decision defies belief and fails to protect consumers.’

The cap will move up or down depending on factors such as passenger numbers and commercial revenue.

It comes as Heathrow chiefs revealed in October the airport had lost £500million over the summer.

The figure means Britain’s busiest airport has now lost £3.4billion since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.  

Heathrow told investors in October that the losses mounted despite efforts to cut 30 per cent of operating outgoings during the Covid period.

However it reassured them of its ‘financial strength’ with £4.1billion of cash in reserve. 

It also said there were signs of improvement but it did not expect passenger numbers to recover fully for five years. 

Heathrow’s seven billionaire owners include the sovereign wealth funds of Qatar, Singapore and China.

It has paid out about £4 billion in dividends since 2012 and has said it could restart payouts next year, after pausing them over the pandemic, if its debts come under control.

Heathrow bases its charges on the numbers using the airport. It expects around 40 million passengers next year, compared to 80 million before the pandemic, and said this means each passenger must pay more to cover the shortfall.

Company documents show Heathrow would have raised around £1.6billion from airport charges next year – had it been able to charge the higher rate it had requested. But the new £30 charge is expected to only raise around £300million.

Heathrow last month introduced a new £5 drop-off charge outside its terminals.

The new charge applies to all vehicles – including taxis and private hire cars – entering the forecourt areas outside the airport’s terminals.

Heathrow last month introduced a new £5 drop-off charge outside its terminals. The new charge applies to all vehicles - including taxis and private hire cars - entering the forecourt areas outside the airport's terminals

Heathrow last month introduced a new £5 drop-off charge outside its terminals. The new charge applies to all vehicles – including taxis and private hire cars – entering the forecourt areas outside the airport’s terminals

The fee must be paid online or over the phone, with number plate reading cameras, instead of barriers, being used to enforce the charge.

Heathrow chiefs say the move, which brings the airport’s policy in line with the likes of Gatwick and Manchester, who also have £5 drop-off charges, is aimed at ‘improving air quality and reducing congestion’. 

The move could bringing in as much as £100million-a-year for the airport.

It comes as Chancellor Rishi Sunak in October announced plans to cut air passenger duty (APD) on domestic flights by 50 per cent.

The tax cut, due to take effect from 2023, will result in 400,000 more airline passengers a year, according to estimates by one fiscal watchdog. 

However aviation chiefs warned that the ‘fundamentally flawed’ tax increase on ultra-long haul flights will ‘penalise’ a global Britain and be a further blow to airlines recovering from the impact of Covid.

The Government plans to slap a £91 air passenger duty (APD) on flights to far flung destinations such as Australia, east Asia and large parts of South America from 2023. 

Aviation bosses say the new ultra-long haul charge will unfairly punish long haul carriers who have faced major disruption and a huge drop in passenger numbers since March last year due the Covid pandemic. 

The charge, which will be brought in from April 2023, is a new level on top of the current long distance charge. 

Current long haul destinations, such as the US, Dubai and Brazil, will remain in the current long haul area for air passenger duty – which will rise from £82 to £87.

But even longer haul destinations will now be moved into a new area, the ultra-long haul zone, which will be charged at £91.

Luis Gallego, boss of British Airways owner IAG, said that increasing APD on long-haul flights ‘will penalise Global Britain’.  

He also said the move will ‘limit the airlines’ ability to invest in green technologies’.

Meanwhile, Willie Walsh, Mr Gallego’s predecessor and now head of body Iata, told the Telegraph: ‘It is astounding that the Chancellor thinks now is the time to raise the cost of flying. 

‘Masquerading this cash grab as a green tax the week before Cop26 is the height of political hypocrisy that people are fed up with.’ 

A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson added: ‘The announcement of a new ultra-long haul band for Air Passenger Duty (APD) is fundamentally flawed, as it will fail to reward increased efficiency or reduced carbon emissions. 

‘Passengers will pay the same rate of APD whether flying with modern, fuel efficient airlines such as Virgin Atlantic, or those with a fleet of older, less efficient aircraft. 

‘Increasing the highest long-haul taxes in the world will make the UK less competitive while hindering, rather than supporting, investment in sustainable aviation fuels, which are essential for decarbonising long haul aviation.

‘With economic recovery at stake, UK Government has missed a vital opportunity to lower the cost of long haul travel for UK businesses and consumers by reducing APD, at a crucial time when airlines are focussing on recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.’

The decision to increase the tax on long haul flights was announced alongside a cut to domestic flight tax, which will drop from £12 to £6.50.

The move will mean a further 400,000 people taking domestic flights a year, according to estimates by the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR).  

 

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