British Airline Pilots' Association (Balpa) called today (7 April) for "a change in the way British Airways (BA) is managed" following the fiasco at Heathrow Terminal 5.
"It is with great sorrow and acute embarrassment that BA pilots have witnessed the unhappy, distressing shambles that the opening of T5 has become," said union general secretary Jim McAuslan in an open letter to city institutions and the government. "This airline can and should make Britain proud but a fundamental change of attitude is required from the very highest levels of BA management."
He said banks, institutional investors and analysts "need to wake up to the fact that there is something very wrong right at the heart of this company that is making our once great brand a laughing stock.
"We want confidence in our leadership, not arrogance. Our reputation as a country has been harmed no end. Support for a 3rd runway has taken a direct hit."
A BA spokesman told ABTN: "I know they were branding the BA team as being arrogant - but basically Willie Walsh is not going to resign, and is determined to resolve problems associated with the initial move to T5."
Of the 185 flights cancelled at Heathrow at the weekend as snow and ice covered the capital, around 140 flights were BA's, and the UK flag carrier cancelled a further 34 today.
"We're not doing too badly - we're running a 90% service - but there is follow-on because of the terrible weather yesterday," said the spokesman."We had scores of aircraft out of position across Europe, plus flight and cabin crew. The bulk of Heathrow services affected were ours because BA is by far the biggest airline here."
BAA told ABTN the airport's two runways were closed only for 20mins each on Sunday because of the snow, but the airline spokesman said: "If you think what influence fog can have in one day - well multiply that by ten when you get snow and ice. Everything takes longer, and that hits into departures and arrivals, and the ripple effect grows exponentially further into the day."
BA is making no operational announcements for the rest of the week, but it had aimed to run normal services for the first time at the weekend before another software system problem hit the baggage system on Saturday ” for which BAA took full responsibility - and Sunday's snow.
BA had to sort baggage manually while BAA engineers fixed the problem.
The lost luggage pile has dwindled from around 28,000 to 5,000 bags, and the BA spokesman rejected Balpa's suggestion that the 400 volunteers brought in to help were too few.
"Having the so-called baggage mountain coming down to 5,000 is not an inadequate response. Volunteers have done a magnificent job, and it's not helpful for their contribution to be belittled in this way," the spokesman said.
Staff morale at T5 had been tested, he said, adding: "It's been very trying on everyone because we had such high hopes, and because it didn't go to plan it's been very hard work, but we're very proud of staff for working so hard to resolve problems when they have arisen."