British Airways CIO Paul Coby apologised to attendees of the Forrester IT Forum in Lisbon today. The keynote speaker said he knew this would be a tough audience and approached attendees with a full and frank apology of the business mistakes British Airways (BA) made in its move into Heathrow Terminal 5 in March, 2008.

Coby opened the Portuguese event with a discussion on the role of the CIO and IT in business, but made no attempts to shy away from dealing with the difficulties his organisation has faced this year, and in particular his department.

“We do make mistakes. T5 is probably at the front of your minds,” he said opening his session. “I’d like to say I’m very sorry, I was there, I am part of it [the problems], it was a tough experience for customer and a tough experience for us, “ he said.

“We have learnt lessons from T5 and those lessons include being prepared,” he didn’t discuss issues around system development deeply. The pre-launch publicity by British Airways, which Coby played a part in, was blamed. “We talked it up to much; we should have talked it down.” He also admitted BA should have soft launched and he said last Thursday’s move of some additional arrivals and departures into T5 went “pretty smoothly”. Coby admitted that his department should have carried out more training and formalisation, especially for the new baggage handling system. “Do as much training and formalisation as you think you need, then triple it,” he said.

“We have to admit we did serious damage to our reputation,” he said of the debacle.

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