Fingerprint plan for T5 suspended in legal rowFirst flight leaves Terminal 5 today

27 March 2008

Airport sign directing travellers to the terminal.

Airport operator BAA will not be taking fingerprints of passengers using Heathrow's £4.3 billion Terminal 5 (T5) which opens today following doubts over the legality of such a move.

BAA had hoped to fingerprint T5 domestic-flight passengers and international passengers transferring on to domestic flights at the west London airport from the start of business at the new terminal.

But the Information Commissioner's Office was concerned the fingerprinting could breach the Data Protection Act.

Information Commissioner

Yesterday BAA said: 'Following a meeting with all relevant parties, including the Information Commissioner and the Border and Immigration Agency, the introduction of fingerprinting for domestic passengers and international passengers transferring on to domestic flights at Heathrow will be temporarily delayed.

'BAA will be opening Terminal 5 using a photographic identification process during this time which is already in place. We will be working closely with the Information Commissioner and the Home Office over the next few weeks to agree the best approach going forward.'

Airport operator BAA, and British Airways which has exclusive use of the new terminal, will hope that this is the only hitch in the T5 opening.

'Bed down'

But BA and BAA have warned that it could take time for the new terminal to 'bed down'.

Bitterly opposed by local residents and green groups, T5 has been built following a record-breaking and costly four-year public inquiry which ran from 1995 to 1999.

BA will move much of its Heathrow operation into the new terminal, which was officially opened by the Queen earlier this month and which will be able to handle 30 million passengers a year.

First woman pilot

BA's first woman pilot, Captain Lynn Barton, 51, was due to be the commander of the first flight to arrive at T5 - BA026 from Hong Kong, which was due to touch down at 4.50am today.

The first departure from T5 is BA302 to Paris, due to leave at 6.20am. A further 380 flights will then depart or arrive from the terminal during its first day of operation.

BA is expecting 80% of its T5 passengers to either check in online or to use the self check-in facilities at the terminal.

Luggage will whizz round on more than 10 miles of belts and tracks in a system capable of handling 12,000 bags an hour.

© The Press Association. All rights reserved