HEATHROW CRISIS: BBC correspondent: 'BA slammed door in my face'

The BBC's transport correspondent has spoken out about his experience covering the Terminal 5 opening, including BA's now-infamous 'door slam' PR gaffe.

Tom Symonds, who covers transport for BBC News, News 24 and BBC Radio, told PRWeek: 'I've covered many Heathrow cock-ups before, and while BA is a strong enough brand to recover, this time it may cut deeper.'

Symonds arrived at the new terminal before 7am last Thursday. He was greeted by a full team of BA PR people, including head of corporate comms Julia Simpson.

'You couldn't move for BA press officers,' said Symonds. 'Julia was there, along with Willie Walsh and (head of media relations) Paul Marsden.'

Symonds said that despite BA's strong PR presence on the ground at the start of the day, the press officers began to disperse as chaos set in.

'By mid-morning, the senior press officers, the ones with the higher level of knowledge, were not there. I ran into one at about 11am and he was in a state of shock.'

Symonds stayed at T5 all day, hoping for a statement from BA or BAA in time for the BBC evening news.

'BAA put up its general manager Mark Bullock for interview, then he was withdrawn,' said Symonds.

When BA eventually issued a statement, Symonds found it unsatisfactory, so followed operations director Gareth Kirkwood in the hope of posing further questions.

'He and his press officer slammed a door in my face,' said Symonds. 'I am not going to criticise BA but I would say it has presentational issues. It did not look good.'

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