Sue Turner, The Birmingham Post ballet correspondent, was one of the first passengers to fly out of Terminal 5 on its opening day but what should have been a dream trip soon turned into a nightmare.
Sue, from the Black Country, arrived on Thursday at Heathrow’s new terminal at 7.30am, leaving what she thought was plenty of time to check in for her 9.45am flight to Moscow. Speaking from the Russian capital, she said last night: "I’d tried to check-in on line the night before but the website wasn’t working.
"I wasn’t worried and everything was fine until I set foot in the terminal. The fast bag-drop couldn’t check me in, so I was sent to the old-fashioned check-in desks but they couldn’t help either, so I was sent off to customer services.
"There was a long queue already in front of 20 desks, but only two were open and eventually, after about half an hour, I was checked in"
The reviewer, who was en route to watch the Kirov Ballet perform Romeo and Juliet in St Petersburgh, then asked one of the many airport staff – wearing T-shirts bearing the slogan ’I’m here to help’ – where the nearest postbox was.
"Those T-shirts were a bit of a misnomer. I had to ask seven people where I could post a letter, and even the seventh guy admitted he didn’t know but as time was tight for me to board my flight, he promised to post it for me," said Ms Turner.
"I’d got to Terminal 5 in good time thinking I would check-in, have a leisurely breakfast then board my flight, but with all the running around and queuing involved I barely had time for a coffee."
After take-off was delayed by 85 minutes, the flight finally landed in Moscow – where temperatures were plummeting below -2C (28F) – at 5pm.
"It soon became apparent at the carousel that a lot of people’s bags hadn’t been loaded," she added. "What was odd was that there were couples or groups who had booked in together but only had half their luggage.
"I only had the clothes I stood up in – smartish trousers, a thin jumper and thin cardigan, winter coat and shoes. Thankfully I’d packed an emergency pair of pants in my hand luggage.
"Although the flight had made up some time and landed a bit early, I spent the next 90 minutes queuing at different desks and filling out forms in triplicate."
The bureaucratic delays were further compounded by rush-hour traffic, which meant Ms Turner missed the first 30 minutes of the Kirov’s performance.
"I have since been told my luggage should arrive in Moscow on Sunday, but that’s no good as I’m flying back that afternoon, so I half expect my bags to pass me in the air when I fly back.
"What was clear from my experience is the staff wanted to help but many were complaining they hadn’t had enough training or were out of their comfort zone.
"I certainly won’t be flying from Terminal 5 again."