Select Committee on Transport Twelfth Report

3  Communication

Staff and management

15.  We asked representatives from Unite to tell us how they had communicated with management at BAA and British Airways in the run-up to the terminal's opening. Steve Turner, national secretary for aviation, told us that: "members and shop stewards locally had been raising concerns both within BAA and BA for a considerable period in relation to the opening of T5", but that "no consideration was given to the response from the trade union side."[23] Stanley Peters—a shop steward working for BAA—explained that union representatives:

"had several meetings with the company prior to T5; they started in 2006. We said to the company that the way it was going would not work. Based on our own experience having worked there for years no technology can take that away. Based on our experience we said that they must listen to what we said and do it this way, but we were told that, no, it was a state-of-the-art building and everything would work and be all right."[24]

Jackie Reed, trade union side secretary at Heathrow, said that these meetings

"were more presentations about how it would work, the size of the building and that sort of thing. Once we started to get into deeper discussions obviously they were about this was how it would work, it was an opportunity to bring in state-of-the-art equipment and this was how it would be."[25]

16.  The evidence we received indicated that both BAA and British Airways were aware that the processes being introduced at Terminal 5 were ones with which the unions were not entirely happy. Willie Walsh agreed that the training should have been completed, but we cannot help thinking that the programme of training for non-security staff—whose training was described by Jackie Reed as "pretty powerful"—should have been much more thorough.[26]

BAA and British Airways

17.  When asked what he thought caused the problems which hampered the opening, Colin Matthews told us that:

"however well the airport operator and the airline operator, BA, are working it is also vital that the two are absolutely integrated and together. I think that during the construction of Terminal 5 that appeared to be the case. Around about or just prior to the opening of T5 it seems that that togetherness deteriorated. It is that togetherness that allows you to cope with the issues that arise on the day."[27]

He added that, if he had his time again, he "would focus resolutely and determinedly on keeping British Airways and BAA in the same room tightly together".[28]

18.  To this end, together with British Airways, BAA has instituted

  • a daily T5 operations meeting, attended by the senior BA and BAA managers and their immediate teams, to review the previous day's operating performance and implement any necessary actions;
  • a weekly BAA/BA joint meeting to review the performance of the baggage operations at T5; and
  • a weekly BAA/BA meeting to assess progress in ensuring the remaining BA flights from Terminal 4 can be switched to T5 according to the proposed timetable.[29]

19.  It is too late to know for sure whether taking these measures sooner would have prevented some or all of the problems that arose in March and April. Our suspicion is that they would have, given the successful second batch of moves from T4 to T5 on 5 June. It is therefore deeply regrettable that these steps were not taken before the opening. We are glad that BAA and British Airways have now taken them.

23   Qq 198-199 Back

24   Q 201 Back

25   Q 203 Back

26   Ibid. Back

27   Q 278 Back

28   Q 281 Back

29   Ev 46 Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2008
Prepared 3 November 2008