London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing – 31 May 2021

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London Heathrow Collage
London Heathrow Collage (Image Credit: Heathrow)

Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 31 May 2021.

Heathrow Airport Marks 75 Years

Heathrow Airport marks 75 years of civil aviation operations today.

Although the airport, then known as London Airport, traces its history much further, it was on 31 May 1946 it officially started passenger flights.

Like many aviation anniversaries of late, there is little cause for celebration.

It’s no exaggeration to say Heathrow’s fortunes have changed dramatically in the past 12 months. Two of its four terminals remain closed to passenger flights. There are scores of destinations on its route network that have not been served for over a year, and many may not be touched for another 12 months. It will be some time before we see 7 Airbus A380s a day flying to Dubai, or nearly 30 flights a day to New York.

In its early years, Heathrow replaced Croydon and Northolt as hubs for BA’s predecessor airlines British European Airways and British Overseas Airways Corporation.

The experience of its first passengers was radically different to now. Passengers would be bussed from the Imperial Airways Terminal and West London Air Terminal. These were rendered redundant by the opening of the now demolished Terminal 1 in April 1969 and the extension of the Piccadilly Line to Heathrow in December 1977.

The oldest terminal at the airport today is Terminal 3 which opened in November 1961 when it was then known as the Oceanic Terminal. This is eventually earmarked for demolition in favour of an expanded Terminal 2.

In its time Heathrow has witnessed many aviation milestones including the first passenger jet flight across the Atlantic, the arrival of Concorde and the Boeing 747, the launch of “Shuttle” services to UK regional airports, and Qantas operating non stop flights to Australia.

1991 saw significant change with the arrival of Virgin Atlantic. This was marked with Sir Richard Branson dressing as a pirate and covering a model BA Concorde with Virgin livery and declaring the airport “Virgin Territory”. It prompted a rapid deterioration in its relationship with BA.

American Airlines and United also replaced Pan American World Airways and Trans World Airlines as the two US airlines permitted to fly to the USA. The EU-US Open Skies treaty allowed what was then Continental, Delta, Northwest Airlines and US Airways transfer operations from Gatwick to Heathrow.

Some airlines have come and gone, notably the “friendly independent” bmi British Midland.

Whilst Heathrow remains highly sought after – every season new airlines seek to gain access – relations between the airport and airlines can be poor. The chaotic opening of Terminal 5 in 2008 exposed a dysfunctional relationship with BA. The airport has rightly criticised for its disastrous response to heavy snowfall in Christmas 2010, which prompted a radical overhaul of its image.

Whilst the airport and airlines are presenting a united front in campaigning for the lifting of travel restrictions, tensions will continue as Heathrow seeks to recover its financial losses due to COVID-19 and fund a third runway.

Also of note this week:

Planning permission is secured for a new railway station at Inverness Airport. (Network Rail)

The CAA has released passenger statistics for domestic and international routes from UK airports for April 2021. After 12 months of substantial year-on-year decreases, some routes particularly UK domestic, are reporting increases.

Late post publication updates:

[Reserved for updates throughout the day]

Lufthansa plans to reopen its First Class lounge at Terminal 1 Frankfurt Airport on Tuesday 1 June. Additional lounges worldwide, as well as the First Class Terminal at Frankfurt, will reopen in the coming weeks.

London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing is published every Monday morning at 06:00 BST and updated throughout the day. If you have any tips or stories please contact us. You can also follow us on Twitter for breaking news throughout the week.

London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing is published every Monday morning at 06:00 BST and updated throughout the day. If you have any tips or stories please contact us. You can also follow us on Twitter for breaking news throughout the week.

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