Ask the staffer

Old Oct 11, 22, 3:24 am
  #811  
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Ba seem to need about three staff on the ground to guide passengers between back door stairs and the bottom of the stairs at the jetbridge - so I don't think they can do it as a matter of routine.
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Old Oct 11, 22, 3:27 am
  #812  
 
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I love it when this thread gets bumped and am always hoping for some insight as given by those preceding. Sigwx, 13901 and Waterhorse we are lucky to have you around and I am sure Im not the only one who hugely appreciates your answers.

As mentioned, it is quite astounding how some airlines seem to get this so right (most of the time), but I imagine there are often complex issues at play. I watched the apron at CUN for about an hour in the summer and I was so impressed by their set up- a full complement of staff awaiting every arrival at the gate, each with their own job to do and an amazing orchestra performing to make things run smoothly.

The pandemic has certainly shown us how dependent modern life still is on people doing dirty, dangerous, exhausting work on 11/h.
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Old Oct 11, 22, 3:33 am
  #813  
 
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Originally Posted by 13901 View Post
Ryanair, it's worth noting, have airstairs only on the front and I don't believe the BA airbuses (or any Airbus?) have that option. I'd argue that BA could do front-and-back boarding at LHR by using the jetty/node stairs and then a walk over to the back door for those who can/want and are sat at the back. It's done in GLA or other places in Scotland after all. And I agree, a set of steps is a set of steps and no matter what they should be used by customers.
Absolutely, so it’s it’s just a staffing, or lack of staffing issue, which means it’s a management failure: they have failed to provide enough staff for a resilient service. It has been planned for a just in time service, which assumes everything runs on schedule and there are no off-plan events, this is clearly not an industry where that is a sensible concept, yet BA seem wedded to it.

The inability to attract sufficiently qualified staff is a function of being market rate, the holy grail of management, which is fine provided the job is attractive. When the T&Cs are not market rate then you have to do something to retain staff, which is what BA used to do, and that has its problems too as it becomes a sinecure, and no one ever leaves no matter how much they dislike the job. So again good management, or rather leadership is required, yet seems lacking.
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Old Oct 11, 22, 3:57 am
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Originally Posted by KARFA View Post
Ba seem to need about three staff on the ground to guide passengers between back door stairs and the bottom of the stairs at the jetbridge - so I don't think they can do it as a matter of routine.
Sometimes BA are victims of their own safety obsession to be honest with you. I remember once bringing a (very) safety conscious colleague to Madrid to see Iberia's Line Maintenance hangars. The poor guy almost passed out when he saw that the coffee machine was in the hangars, that you accessed the hangars without safety goggles (mind you, there were a few dozen meters from the machine to the closest plane) and, worst of all, the hangar doors gave way to an active taxiway leading to T1!

Originally Posted by Waterhorse View Post
Absolutely, so its its just a staffing, or lack of staffing issue, which means its a management failure: they have failed to provide enough staff for a resilient service. It has been planned for a just in time service, which assumes everything runs on schedule and there are no off-plan events, this is clearly not an industry where that is a sensible concept, yet BA seem wedded to it.

The inability to attract sufficiently qualified staff is a function of being market rate, the holy grail of management, which is fine provided the job is attractive. When the T&Cs are not market rate then you have to do something to retain staff, which is what BA used to do, and that has its problems too as it becomes a sinecure, and no one ever leaves no matter how much they dislike the job. So again good management, or rather leadership is required, yet seems lacking.
I think this is a bit reductive, Waterhorse. I mean, I know that flogging 'management' is often accurate, but the root cause of all the woes affecting the airline industry - not just BA, not just HAL, the industry - are deeper and are to do with the desire - no, the expectation - of high returns from shareholders. I've had plenty of business cases for good ideas rejected as the ROIC wasn't high enough, or the budget wasn't available, or because we had to cut costs... and why did we? To maintain a good enough ROIC for shareholders. End of.

You mention Ryanair as somebody who seemingly isn't affected by the problems that afflict HAL or BA. Well, this is because of how the offload the problem on their contractors, often companies (and airports) that are totally and utterly dependent on FR for their survival. I was recently doing some work at an airport in Europe where FR is by far the main customer. They had two loaders working the plane, one dragging the Wessex cart with the bags by hand and then putting the bags in, again by hand, to his mate inside the hold (and you know how small the 737 hold is). No belt conveyors, no nothing. And when I asked how's that possible, I was told that the contract was up for renewal and to save money on the bid the handler reduced hardware spend, which meant that when the old conveyors went bust... they weren't changed. So not all departures have them.

How to change this? I don't know. Somewhere, somehow, the markets, the "City" need to understand that a steady 12, 13% return on invested capital is better than squeezing the airlines so hard that they can extract a 15-16% but then bleed themselves and their suppliers dry. If that were the case then airlines would be able to invest in getting more equipment on the ground, paying staff more, paying more staff... But that wouldn't be modern day capitalism, wouldn't it?
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Old Oct 11, 22, 4:43 am
  #815  
 
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Originally Posted by 13901 View Post
Sometimes BA are victims of their own safety obsession to be honest with you. I remember once bringing a (very) safety conscious colleague to Madrid to see Iberia's Line Maintenance hangars. The poor guy almost passed out when he saw that the coffee machine was in the hangars, that you accessed the hangars without safety goggles (mind you, there were a few dozen meters from the machine to the closest plane) and, worst of all, the hangar doors gave way to an active taxiway leading to T1!



I think this is a bit reductive, Waterhorse. I mean, I know that flogging 'management' is often accurate, but the root cause of all the woes affecting the airline industry - not just BA, not just HAL, the industry - are deeper and are to do with the desire - no, the expectation - of high returns from shareholders. I've had plenty of business cases for good ideas rejected as the ROIC wasn't high enough, or the budget wasn't available, or because we had to cut costs... and why did we? To maintain a good enough ROIC for shareholders. End of.

You mention Ryanair as somebody who seemingly isn't affected by the problems that afflict HAL or BA. Well, this is because of how the offload the problem on their contractors, often companies (and airports) that are totally and utterly dependent on FR for their survival. I was recently doing some work at an airport in Europe where FR is by far the main customer. They had two loaders working the plane, one dragging the Wessex cart with the bags by hand and then putting the bags in, again by hand, to his mate inside the hold (and you know how small the 737 hold is). No belt conveyors, no nothing. And when I asked how's that possible, I was told that the contract was up for renewal and to save money on the bid the handler reduced hardware spend, which meant that when the old conveyors went bust... they weren't changed. So not all departures have them.

How to change this? I don't know. Somewhere, somehow, the markets, the "City" need to understand that a steady 12, 13% return on invested capital is better than squeezing the airlines so hard that they can extract a 15-16% but then bleed themselves and their suppliers dry. If that were the case then airlines would be able to invest in getting more equipment on the ground, paying staff more, paying more staff... But that wouldn't be modern day capitalism, wouldn't it?
I think that is a bit of a cop out, it is management failure, blaming modern capitalism is just trying to move the blame for the systemic failures. The CEO (who, to be fair we need to give some time to before being overly critical, there is a lot of damage to be repaired) is the person who determines whether or not the ROIC level is too high or too low, and whether investment in capital or people is required. I do not buy the throwing up of the hands and claiming it’s “the City” as a reasonable excuse, leadership needs someone with a clear vision of not only what they want to achieve but also how to go about it. Sitting in the hot seat and blaming the city or any other outside constraint on a failure to address problems that are visible to many is just (to be reductive) a management failure.

Change comes when someone at the top decides there will be a change and implements it.
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Old Oct 11, 22, 4:57 am
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Originally Posted by Waterhorse View Post
I think that is a bit of a cop out, it is management failure, blaming modern capitalism is just trying to move the blame for the systemic failures. The CEO (who, to be fair we need to give some time to before being overly critical, there is a lot of damage to be repaired) is the person who determines whether or not the ROIC level is too high or too low, and whether investment in capital or people is required. I do not buy the throwing up of the hands and claiming its the City as a reasonable excuse, leadership needs someone with a clear vision of not only what they want to achieve but also how to go about it. Sitting in the hot seat and blaming the city or any other outside constraint on a failure to address problems that are visible to many is just (to be reductive) a management failure.

Change comes when someone at the top decides there will be a change and implements it.
OK, if with management we mean those with effective power (in the older days Alex and Willie, these days Sean and Luis) then I'm with you. The market is and remains voracious, but an effective leader can and should be able to 'sell' the story rather than just jump when the market says so. A while back, ironically when BA in the face of massive profits gave nothing to its staff, Delta gave big bonuses to its people while its margins weren't as good as IAG's. I remember Wall Street analysts reacting to that news by saying "that's the cost of doing business with Ed". If Ed (Bastian) can do it, why can't Willie? You're right in that.

Where I was coming from was my (back then) situation, where - though a 'manager' - I had little power to improve things in a properly transformational... Took us ages to get one big change financed and approved and then Covid hit and all was ripped out from under our carpet.
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Old Oct 11, 22, 5:00 am
  #817  
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Originally Posted by Waterhorse View Post
I think that is a bit of a cop out, it is management failure, blaming modern capitalism is just trying to move the blame for the systemic failures. The CEO (who, to be fair we need to give some time to before being overly critical, there is a lot of damage to be repaired) is the person who determines whether or not the ROIC level is too high or too low, and whether investment in capital or people is required. I do not buy the throwing up of the hands and claiming its the City as a reasonable excuse, leadership needs someone with a clear vision of not only what they want to achieve but also how to go about it. Sitting in the hot seat and blaming the city or any other outside constraint on a failure to address problems that are visible to many is just (to be reductive) a management failure.

Change comes when someone at the top decides there will be a change and implements it.
However, it's "the city" and their fund managers etc that decide whether a stock is worth holding though and a great deal of that decision is based on ROCE, ROI, Dividend Forecast, Revenue-per-Employee etc etc and all those 100% drive the share price. The share price of a company is very much the holy grail.....so it really does start with the city and their expectations. Public companies like BA generally react to what will drive their share price up in the short term and very occasionally, the medium term.
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Old Oct 11, 22, 5:28 am
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Originally Posted by 13901 View Post

The fundamental issue is that, in 2018/19, below-the-wing operation was hacked to bits. Mr "Cost Cutting is in our DNA" was given the marching orders by Willie, who had unleashed his dog(s) of war onto LHR once they decided that LHR Ops was more expensive than the competition. Don't get me wrong, some reshuffling was needed, and there's an impressive amount of slacking amongst LHR Ops people, and some ideas have actually been brilliant (Mototoks have eliminated towing delays from shorthaul, to name but one). But Operations was seen as a cost centre, not a potential added value, and slashed accordingly. Those who tried to voice concerns about how 'trim' the operation was going to become, and how little resilience was going to remain, were ignored. And now here we are.

There's also a point to be made about the whole industry, not just BA. I don't know if the flying public have understood this, but it's at breaking point. There was a job advert out for Swissport, not exactly one of the worst outfits out there, that basically said "You will be required to come to work anytime, in any weather condition, you will not get car/public transport allowance, in fact there won't be any public transport, you'll have to lift 32kgs repeatedly for 7.5h a day, you will get 30' break and all this for the princely sum of 11 an hour before tax". The job on the ramp is hard, it's dangerous, it wears you down. Guys in their 50s can't bend anymore, walk like their legs are made of cast iron, and given the appalling state of the NHS I had people on long term sick leave for 6 months waiting for an assessment, let alone an operation. And since the pay is so lousy then you can't go private. I heard recently, from HAL, that the ground handlers are effectively still no better off, manpower-wise, than they were 6 months ago. People don't want to join. And they can't increase pay because airlines won't pay more because their shareholders won't agree to have less dividends.
.
While others here have a more detailed understanding than I of BA's operation in and around T5, I can only relate what I experience.

BA inbounds have always been far more likely not to be able to park on stand upon arrival than any other airline at LHR, ever since T5 opened. It wasn't good in any way before 2018. While admittedly since aviation has returned since the pandemic retraction other airlines have been affected by being unable to park on stand, I'd say it's probably running at about 95% BA, 5% all other airlines. I remember discussions with HAL and BA reps before T5 was in operation regarding arrival processes and whether we could work to improve the situation which was bad enough in T4.

It is literally something we plan for now.

Years ago if we had an inbound waiting for a stand, and the departing aircraft called ready, we'd get it to do a long push so the inbound could park as soon as possible.

Then we moved to push and pulling forward, so that if the inbound couldn't park it wouldn't delay the outbound at all.

I've now moved to not bothering to pull the departure forward, because there's a high chance it won't be able to park even then.
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Old Oct 11, 22, 5:38 am
  #819  
 
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Originally Posted by BOH View Post
However, it's "the city" and their fund managers etc that decide whether a stock is worth holding though and a great deal of that decision is based on ROCE, ROI, Dividend Forecast, Revenue-per-Employee etc etc and all those 100% drive the share price. The share price of a company is very much the holy grail.....so it really does start with the city and their expectations. Public companies like BA generally react to what will drive their share price up in the short term and very occasionally, the medium term.
Absolutely this 100%. And not just in the airline industry. It is endemic.

The leadership team are rewarded with huge bonuses linked to growing share price. With most CEO's only staying in the role for a few years, they have limited time to make an impact. Growing the business through being better takes time. Time that they do not have if they want to be seen as successful. So the only route to increase the share price is to maximise profit with short term cost cutting.

I work for a company with a presence around the world. In 2016, the new global CEO decided the countries head offices were bloated and ordered a 20% reduction in head count. The market liked this and share price leapt 50% in a year. One of the departments that disappeared in the UK was the energy team as they were seen as superfluous in a time when energy costs were hedged and stable. Today, with energy costs rising rapidly, the organisation is desperately trying to gather guidance to give to the estate to reduce energy consumption. Seeing that the company is run solely for the benefit of the shareholders, nobody is pushing the boat out leaving the company appear impotent at such a critical time.

Short term cost cutting in the search for higher dividend payments comes back to bite always. Shareholder greed for higher dividends means nothing will change. Until companies decide to take a medium term view, Joe Public will be left facing a worsening service at a higher price. Once the company realises this is an untenable business proposition, it is often too late.
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Old Oct 11, 22, 6:00 am
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Originally Posted by Heathrow Tower View Post
While others here have a more detailed understanding than I of BA's operation in and around T5, I can only relate what I experience.

BA inbounds have always been far more likely not to be able to park on stand upon arrival than any other airline at LHR, ever since T5 opened. It wasn't good in any way before 2018. While admittedly since aviation has returned since the pandemic retraction other airlines have been affected by being unable to park on stand, I'd say it's probably running at about 95% BA, 5% all other airlines. I remember discussions with HAL and BA reps before T5 was in operation regarding arrival processes and whether we could work to improve the situation which was bad enough in T4.

It is literally something we plan for now.

Years ago if we had an inbound waiting for a stand, and the departing aircraft called ready, we'd get it to do a long push so the inbound could park as soon as possible.

Then we moved to push and pulling forward, so that if the inbound couldn't park it wouldn't delay the outbound at all.

I've now moved to not bothering to pull the departure forward, because there's a high chance it won't be able to park even then.
Hi Heathrow Tower, to be fair this issue - which as you said predates the Covid conundrum - has its root cause not in staffing shortages, but in the fact that one bit of the airport is a lot more utilised than other parts of the campus. T5, to my knowledge, is/was the only part of the campus that was exceeding capacity in terms of passenger outflow and movements. Runway capacity in terms of slots, as we know, full but the added problem for T5 is that its designed passenger handling capacity (measurable in people going through the doors, and stand usage) was 'there' too. T3, T4 and especially T2 had more capacity than demand, but in T5 back in '19 we were reaching the high 90s%.

And since there's no slack there, any delays in arrivals/departures and so on was exacerbated as planes couldn't get in/out of T5. Unfortunately, with Engineering base so far away and so few remote stands, there's no way to do a quick tow if a plane stays more than 2-3 hours but less than 5-6 on the ground.
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Old Oct 11, 22, 6:17 am
  #821  
 
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Originally Posted by Heathrow Tower View Post
I've now moved to not bothering to pull the departure forward, because there's a high chance it won't be able to park even then.
Very interesting comment, and one that I can see while looking at BA's arrivals / departures on the Plane Finder app. Somebody I know was on yesterday's BA67 to Philly which was already running late, and the A380 beside it to DXB (also running late) managed to get it's push back request in first, so it pushed and blocked the Philly flight from moving. As the A380 started to move a landing B77W from DXB taxied straight off the runway and was about to take the A380's space (so for a change things looked to be working well) and of course somebody wasn't available to switch the guidance system, so the B77W from DXB waited 10minutes before moving onto stand and blocked the Philly flight pushing. This is not an ATC criticism - just reflects how poor the joined up thinking / lack of resources at BA ground handling are impacting flights on a day to day basis.

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Last edited by Pilot37; Oct 11, 22 at 6:28 am
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Old Oct 11, 22, 6:26 am
  #822  
 
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Originally Posted by Heathrow Tower View Post

It is literally something we plan for now.

I've now moved to not bothering to pull the departure forward, because there's a high chance it won't be able to park even then.
I have had experience recently of exactly this. Very few grand tours these days.
I learnt several moons ago to try not to become emotionally involved in the daily idiocy of resource allocation. I note the EGLL NOTAM of ensuring we dont arrive more than 20 mins early is now more rigorously enforced/followed up, still to no avail but obviously not a problem of NATS making anyway, its us that are the problem.

Ive operated to the majority of the big ME destinations in the past and present where an army of staff lead an assault charge on the newly captured prize, turning it all around and then throwing it back to the enemy lines as it leaves back for London. Yes of course these are mostly very lowly paid workers imported in to do this work but it shows it can be done. In North America where unionised labour is a very active force, we too often find a record, sometimes Herculean effort is thrown into a late arrival to make it an OTD or as near as damn it. The RA delay mins being minimal compared to what they could have been. It is down to carrot & stick I know.

I agree with what both 13901 and Waterhorse have said. Ultimately all of it is all down to satisfying the city. The total lack of clarity and leadership in action is however something that can be addressed and could indeed make a difference. I cant speak for the below wing and terminal teams at all, but for minimal cost they could try to get other business units to buy-in to assisting with smoothing out the clunkiness of the operation. For example the ridiculous and continuous cargo dollies saga. Its an active choice to instil and propagate a divide that only goes to ultimately hurt the bottom line though longer term bite back. The EU261 thread being a small but no doubt growing cost. Sometimes I long for the Ryanair bicycles of yesteryear to come in. It would never pass muster in this modern day H&S climate and completely impractical, but they didnt half work to cut down cost and increase efficiency. It didnt help morale in the wet mind, but at least I wouldnt be waiting for the crew bus on a remote stand after a 13 hour sector.

Alas it is better not to care and know part of A/B/C/D taxiway will invariably be blocked for the foreseeable, delaying my push but hey ho, that doesnt matter anyway. At least we ensured we got a delayed departure stat at an outstation to ensure we didnt possibly breech the -20 mins arrival rule. The post doors closed delay prompt has seen some challenging commentary in the free text box of late. And the .SGS is just pointless now. A delay that long from ON to IN on the post flight report is self explanatory.

The last couple of sentences are more for the likes of WaterHorse, 13901, Jumbodriver et al.

And to HeathrowTower, thanks for putting up with us. I will try and attempt to come up for a brew one of these days.
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Old Oct 11, 22, 6:51 am
  #823  
 
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Originally Posted by Sigwx View Post
Ive operated to the majority of the big ME destinations in the past and present where an army of staff lead an assault charge on the newly captured prize, turning it all around and then throwing it back to the enemy lines as it leaves back for London. Yes of course these are mostly very lowly paid workers imported in to do this work but it shows it can be done. In North America where unionised labour is a very active force, we too often find a record, sometimes Herculean effort is thrown into a late arrival to make it an OTD or as near as damn it. The RA delay mins being minimal compared to what they could have been. It is down to carrot & stick I know.

I agree with what both 13901 and Waterhorse have said. Ultimately all of it is all down to satisfying the city. The total lack of clarity and leadership in action is however something that can be addressed and could indeed make a difference. I cant speak for the below wing and terminal teams at all, but for minimal cost they could try to get other business units to buy-in to assisting with smoothing out the clunkiness of the operation. For example the ridiculous and continuous cargo dollies saga. Its an active choice to instil and propagate a divide that only goes to ultimately hurt the bottom line though longer term bite back. The EU261 thread being a small but no doubt growing cost. Sometimes I long for the Ryanair bicycles of yesteryear to come in. It would never pass muster in this modern day H&S climate and completely impractical, but they didnt half work to cut down cost and increase efficiency. It didnt help morale in the wet mind, but at least I wouldnt be waiting for the crew bus on a remote stand after a 13 hour sector.
I think there's surely an element of incentives that is missing, and that seems to be working alright in other areas (GGS for instance), but the culture problem cuts both ways. The cargo dolly issue is one - but not the stupidest - example. I could count dozens more problem when not even the prospect of additional cash did the trick.
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Old Oct 11, 22, 8:57 am
  #824  
 
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Originally Posted by 13901 View Post
I think there's surely an element of incentives that is missing, and that seems to be working alright in other areas (GGS for instance), but the culture problem cuts both ways. The cargo dolly issue is one - but not the stupidest - example. I could count dozens more problem when not even the prospect of additional cash did the trick.
If you have a workforce with no fear of the consequences of poor performance levels while at the same time having no expectation of a reward for high performance levels you end up with a demotivated workforce. One that you deserve. Where the good people get fed up of working with lazy people and leave for a better employer. The lazy people who get away with being lazy stay.

Rewards come in far more shape and forms than simply paying cash. Just having a boss who says "Good job" is all some people need.
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Old Oct 11, 22, 9:04 am
  #825  
 
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Originally Posted by 13901 View Post
Hi Heathrow Tower, to be fair this issue - which as you said predates the Covid conundrum - has its root cause not in staffing shortages, but in the fact that one bit of the airport is a lot more utilised than other parts of the campus. T5, to my knowledge, is/was the only part of the campus that was exceeding capacity in terms of passenger outflow and movements. Runway capacity in terms of slots, as we know, full but the added problem for T5 is that its designed passenger handling capacity (measurable in people going through the doors, and stand usage) was 'there' too. T3, T4 and especially T2 had more capacity than demand, but in T5 back in '19 we were reaching the high 90s%.

And since there's no slack there, any delays in arrivals/departures and so on was exacerbated as planes couldn't get in/out of T5. Unfortunately, with Engineering base so far away and so few remote stands, there's no way to do a quick tow if a plane stays more than 2-3 hours but less than 5-6 on the ground.
I don't disagree that T5 is (was, pre pandemic) the most intensively scheduled terminal at LHR, though there are stands (216-221) in T2 used just as, if not more, intesively than anything in T5. I am struggling to make the link from that fact (and passenger throughput etc) to not having the proper resources (equipment/staff) ready to meet those flights when they arrive.
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