Modern Times at Heathrow

I turned up at an unearthly hour at Heathrow Terminal One this morning to find the bizarre sight of the bmi Premium check in area (where they still actually have real people rather than machines) completely unattended. No, it wasn’t a sudden urge to automate and deprive the businessman of his opportunity to ‘interact’ with attractive airline operatives. No, they hadn’t a clue what they were doing as all the computers were ‘down’. The staff checking in the VIPs had run off to consult their manuals on how to do a manual check-in. This is basically impossible in the new airport world of self-service machines and bag drops when none of the technology can connect to the departure control system. Fortunately they had a few old-fashioned check-in desks available (mainly retained for their new long-haul services) and had to assign a flight to a physical desk so the staff could, literally, tick off the passengers on a piece of paper until they knew the plane was full (how they dealt with e-tickets, I’ve no idea, fortunately I had checked in online the night before but still had to check a bag). They also had to hand write the boarding cards and the bag tags and, of course, there was no allocated seating. Comically, I was travelling on the tiny Embraer 135 (capacity 38 people max) and because they couldn’t do load and balance they made everyone sit down at one end of the plane for trim purposes!

The cause seems to be Lufthansa’s systems (perhaps run by Amadeus) as the outage affected flights at airports across Europe (someone was late to my meeting from Brussels because of this) and, no doubt, the rest of the world.

I was amazed to find my bag turn up at the other end with its hand-written inscription and I’ll perhaps treasure this reminder of what happens when the old legacy system decides to pack up.

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