Senior execs leave British Airways after terminal IT fiasco

Following the chaotic opening of Terminal 5, British Airways has announced that two of its senior executives will leave the company.

BA said director of operations Gareth Kirkwood and director of customer services David Noyes would be leaving the carrier. The group said their roles would be merged into the new position of chief operations officer.

BA did not disclose whether the managers were asked to go or resigned. “The departures follow the airline’s move to Terminal 5,” the statement from BA added.

The opening of Terminal 5 (T5) in March was beset by a catalogue of problems when a high-tech baggage system broke down and log-on problems left staff unable to get into work.

Thousands of bags have been mislaid and hundreds of flights cancelled since the terminal opened, as BA and British Airport Authority (BAA) still seek to mend the situation. BA said the total cost of the disruption was around UK$16 million.

Chief executive officer Willie Walsh also faces pressure to step down. Soon after the opening, Walsh told media he accepted responsibility for the T5 debacle. “The buck stops with me”. Last week, the British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) called for “a change in how British Airways is managed,” in an open letter to investors and government.

MPs have weighed in too, calling for an investigation into Terminal 5. On May 7, the Commons Transport Select Committee will hold an enquiry into the fiasco. Representatives from BAA and BA will give evidence.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Tessa Jowell, minister for London, said that “conditions at Heathrow have damaged London.” She added: “BAA has to be responsible in a sense for every bit of lost business to London from people making that kind of decision [not to come to the U.K.].”

BA has been forced to delay moving long haul flights to the UK$4.3 billion terminal until the systems are fully restored.

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