Chaos eases at London airport


British Airways cancelled another 54 flights Monday after a nightmare weekend at London Heathrow airport's newly-opened Terminal Five, but there was less chaos and fewer queues, witnesses said.

The airline was however dealing with a backlog of some 15,000 pieces of luggage which had been separated from their owners since the terminal opened last week, and a spokesman refused to predict when services would be completely normal.

"You would just use that as a stick to beat us with if it didn't happen," said the spokesman for BA, the only airline using the new fifth terminal at Heathrow, one of the world's busiest airports.

Terminal Five has been blighted by logistical troubles ever since it opened to much fanfare on Thursday, with problems compounded by a major computer glitch in the luggage handling system.

BA chief executive Willie Walsh was forced to make his second apology in three days on Sunday, as the airline scrapped dozens of flights over the weekend.

On Monday morning the atmosphere in the terminal -- where huge queues built up last week and people were forced to sleep on the floor because of cancelled flights -- was calm, according to witnesses.

"We've had absolutely no problems this morning, it all seems to be running very smoothly," said Dawn Reece, who came to the airport to see her daughter off on a gap year in Japan.

BA has said Terminal Five would be at 87 per cent capacity on Monday and Tuesday, adding that passengers affected by delays and cancellations would be informed by email or text message in advance.

The spacious facility was meant to be a jewel in the crown of British airports operator BAA, which owns and operates Heathrow, and British Airways, which currently enjoys exclusive use of T5.

Business leaders called the situation a public relations disaster for BA, London and Britain.

T5, which was unveiled earlier this month by Queen Elizabeth II, was designed to handle 30 million passengers a year and alleviate notorious overcrowding at the world's busiest international air hub. (AFP)