Tuesday, June 30, 2009

When technology bites - Terminal 5 baggage system

On vacation - trying to take a break from work and the general pressures of running a company. But clearly there is no rest for the wicked.

I left London on Sunday from Heathrow Terminal 5. For the first time in many, many years I checked my bag. I was tired. My bag, although carry on, was heavy. Probably because I had a mobile office in there. I didn't want to have to lift it. Silly me.

I arrived in Rome - not the most organized airport at the best of times - to find 2 hours later that half the bags had not made it onto the flight, mine included. Turns out there had been another major breakdown in the new Terminal 5 baggage handling system. Not only were many bags lost but many flights were delayed and passengers stranded because the whole check in system was suspended.

I'm on day 3, no suitcase, no power, enough pigeon Italian to buy toiletries but it's getting grim. So I did some research on the T5 system so I'd know who to be mad at.

Any guesses? IBM of course. The British Airways site touts the "state-of-the-art baggage system at Terminal 5 was designed by IBM and leading baggage handling experts, Vanderlande. Every effort to has been made to make sure your baggage arrives just where you want it, when you want it."

The opening of T5 was a "national embarrassment" last year - IT and poor training and testing is blamed for the problems plaguing the baggage handling system.

48 hours later and counting. The only phone number I have is in Italy so of course the hours they are open are short and they know nothing - they have to wait for London to tell them anything.

Lesson to self. Technology is a dangerous toy and needs to be tested. A major state-of-the-art new system that can take things away from you is to be avoided until it's been hardened for many years. And never, ever check bags again.

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