Terminal 5 shambles brings holiday chaos

Not a great headline from The Times newspaper here in the UK this morning. Who would be a BA or a BAA executive?

For those that do not know after 19 years of planning and building (much of this was in getting planning permission to build the terminal) the 5th Terminal at Heathrow opened yesterday and by the end of the day:

10,00 passengers were affected by a series of cancellations
33 flights were cancelled
4 hours delay for luggage on incoming flights
188 departures planned for terminal 5 yesterday
31,000 passengers due to be handled yesterday

The debate will go on for a while to establish EXACTLY what went wrong however some issues have already surfaced:

* signage in the new terminal is not very clear
* staff handling baggage etc were delayed by security checks
* security workers could not park
* baggage handlers were unable to log on to computers

So, what are the lessons for all of us involved in the running of projects (as big as Terminal 5)?

a)trial, trial and trial again. This week there was TV programme showing how they built and tested the new airport. Obviously not enough

b) how about one persons suggestion in the papers “have a a gradual move across to terminal 5 rather than a big bang… “

c)training: when things go wrong, you need well trained staff to cope! The papers are full of quotes from unhappy passengers however one quote from a staff member (if its true) does little to inspire confidence “this is what happens with a new terminal”. Train, train and train again. If you do this the chances of the problems and issues happening are reduced and if something does go wrong well trained staff do try and inspire confidence in its customers…somehow

d)put in robust quality checking processes. These quality checks would have identified potential problems and potential risks

e)PR – what a disaster for BAA, BA and for the UK. Many of the post from on-line newspapers were incredibly scathing about this countries poor project management record.

As I type this note, there are calls for heads to roll (sackings)- I wonder….

No doubt there will be further information coming from the sad experience of those who tried to travel in yesterday.

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