BA loses the luggage of thousands of travellers during Storm Eunice

British Airways has apologised for “letting people down” as thousands of passengers wait to be reunited with luggage after a chaotic weekend at Heathrow Terminal 5.

BA said that high winds caused by Storm Eunice had resulted in the meltdown of the ground-handling operation and a backlog. Passengers said the baggage hall looked “close to collapse”.

Passengers arriving were told to leave without their belongings, while many of those departing had to fly without their luggage.

BA said it was working “around the clock” to resolve the issues. It said it would aim to courier all bags back to their owners within 72 hours.

BA sources told The Times that the chaos had been caused by the “extremely challenging” weather conditions. At the height of the storm the airline was unable to open the hold doors of some aircraft given the force of the winds. BA said: “We have let people down and that isn’t good enough, but we can reassure customers we are doing absolutely everything we can to improve the situation.”

The airline is the largest carrier at Heathrow and says it is disproportionately hit by adverse weather. The airline had to cancel dozens of flights over the weekend, including all domestic operations on Sunday afternoon. Jets forced to “go around” after failed attempts to land or divert to other airports on Friday had a huge knock-on effect, leaving planes and crew in the wrong place or behind schedule.

The opening of Terminal 5, the airline’s base at Heathrow, in 2008 was marred by a meltdown with baggage operations. The airline had to cancel 34 flights on its first day in use and suspend luggage check-in altogether.

In the following ten days 42,000 bags failed to travel with their owners and 500 flights were cancelled.