Monday, 7 April 2008

Terminal 5: In the line of fire

I travelled back from Budapest through T5 yesterday and it wasn't a pleasant exercise. Aesthetically it is well designed, nice and quiet, and passport control is huge and well staffed so we were through in moments. Unfortunately that's where the good experience ended.

Against the backdrop of last weeks disaster, (and having been forced at the last minute to fly out of Gatwick to our destination), we were interested to see just how bad it would be. We got our answer in the baggage reclaim hall, where the tempers of all 25 of us started to fray pretty quickly as we looked up at the long list of flights coming in that said "please wait" next to them.

45 minutes later we were still standing there when a tired looking member of staff walked up to us and informed us that the luggage for the Budapest flight was on carousel 10. The electronic signage it seems, doesn't work - the luggage had clearly been going round for quite some time.

By this time we were of course desperate to just get out of there and go home. But when we emerged mole-like into the light, it was to face 30-strong queues for the lifts to the car park. I couldn't work out whether they were going too slowly or that there simply aren't enough of them; either way it was the staff again that provided the solution. This time there was a determined lady with a huge set of lungs bellowing instructions to the crowd. And another lady in the lift preventing too many people from getting in at once. They too looked rather tired, and as if they'd quite like someone to say something kind to them.

This made me wonder at the size of the employee motivation task BA and BAA have on their hands. The Terminal 5 brand currently stands for failure at worst, and naivety at best. The staff don't just have to deal with the frustration of not being able to do their jobs properly and the tempers of the customers who really aren't getting what they paid for. They ALSO have to deal with representing a company who are currently the world's laughing stock. Yet they are the only ones who can keep Terminal 5 from grinding to a halt and stop the public from removing their business from BA en masse.

I really hope that BA management are communicating daily with their staff at the moment. They need to give them enough information to pacify the general public, and to show employees themselves that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Most importantly though I hope they're saying, "well done" and "thank you" as often as they can manage it - because right now the staff is the only thing at Terminal 5 that's actually working.

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