“At London Heathrow Terminal 5 we’ve created a natural, logical journey that’s so calm, you’ll flow through. It should only take ten minutes to get from check-in to departures”
This is the promise British Airways makes about the new super large, super luxurious, $8.6 billion Terminal 5 or T5, at London Heathrow airport. Capable of handling 30 million passengers, this ONE uber-terminal, is 13.76 times bigger than our entire BIAL or RGIA airport in financial outlay.
The reality on opening day …… 20% flights cancelled, thousands of passengers stranded without baggage, check-in queues so long that check-in itself was suspended and passengers told to either check-in without baggage, or go home or a hotel. The reason offered by British Airways …. “staff familiarisation problems” which lead to a total collapse of the baggage, security, and check-in systems.
At the same time, across the world, right here at Bangalore HAL airport, while a Kingfisher ATR plane is taking off, a dog runs across the runway and crashes in to the aircraft. The impact breaks the nose wheel of the aircraft which skids and blocks the runway. The result, is a 4 hour shut down of the airport with scores of flights diverted to alternate airports. The resultant disruption heaps misery on all stake holders from passengers to employees to cargo.
This form of systemic collapse has occurred before. When Chep Lap Kok, Hong Kong’s state of the airport opened, the entire freight terminal collapsed for a period of 2 weeks. The economic impact was felt all the way around the world, with prices of electronic goods and Pentium processors shooting up 500%. Airport closures due to runway disruption have been experienced, not just at Bangalore HAL, but also at India’s mega airports, Mumbai and Delhi, and very recently, at London Heathrow airport.
Both incidences highlight, that despite the best planning, best capabilities, and best intentions, things can, and do go wrong. Given the critical nature and role of airports today, it is crucial to have backup systems.
Terminal 5 at Heathrow, may not have any backup options, but in the case of Bangalore, we have the option of keeping HAL airport open instead of closing it down.