T5: Most disastrous launch of all time?

heathrow.jpgUnder promise, over deliver: that might well be the maxim BAA and BA adopt for their next launches."A living, breathing advertisement for Britain's ambition," barked BAA chief Sir Nigel Rudd, as he unveiled the new £4.5bn Heathrow Terminal 5.The Queen heralded the UK’s largest free-standing building as "a 21st Century gateway to Britain".The world’s press frothed at its spaceage curves and the 60,000 people, 100 million hours and five years it had taken to build; the 3,800 car park spaces; 150 check-in desks; 192 lifts; 105 escalators; 13km of rail links; 112 shops and, of course, the ability to process 12,000 bags an hour.So how exactly did T5 go from fanfare to unmitigated PR disaster? What unforeseen circumstances led to 208 flights being cancelled in the first three days and a backlog of 20,000 bags?Not a lot. Staff hadn’t been told where to park for the big opening; they couldn’t find their way to the terminal and didn’t know how to use the new baggage system.BA, the sole operator for T5, admits it could take years to recover from the bad publicity. And for what? A few signs and some basic organisation? How mad is that?Seeing as nobody’s actually died I think we can stop short of claiming it tops the Titanic as the most calamitous launch of all time. But it has to beat the Millennium Dome, because T5 probably isn’t anywhere near as bad as it’s been made to look.Image: Flickr

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