10 Years of London Heathrow Terminal 5: How Heathrow has changed

As Heathrow celebrates the 10th anniversary of the official opening of Terminal 5, we take a look back at how much the airport has changed in ten years.

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

On 14 March 2008, Her Majesty The Queen officially opened London Heathrow Terminal 5. You can take read the story of its opening here. In the past ten years, London Heathrow has undergone enormous changes so let’s take a look back.

1. Heathrow has got better

Immediately before Terminal 5, BA had the ignominy of being one of the worst airlines in Europe for bagging handling.

Breakdowns in the baggage systems were a frequent occurrence. As was overcrowding in the terminals. Tents made a regular appearance outside Terminal 4 as soon as there was any disruption. Punctuality was similarly bad.

BAA, as it was then known, as owner of Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted was perceived as a byword for a rent-seeking monopoly.

Gatwick and Stansted are now separately owned from Heathrow. After the opening of Terminal 5, Terminal 1 and the old Terminal 2 have closed and been demolished. A new Terminal 2, The Queen’s Terminal, opened in 2014. Terminal 4, which operationally was always on the verge of collapsing in on itself in the last years of BA’s operation, has been refurbished.

Airlines have also regrouped largely around alliance membership with Star Alliance, Oneworld and SkyTeam members in Terminals 2, 3 and 4 respectively.

Whilst Heathrow has had some bad moments, notably the weather disruption of December 2010 which exposed very poor working relations between the airport and its airlines, lessons from this and the opening of Terminal 5 have been learned and contingency planning has improved.
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Is US customs & immigration pre-clearance coming to Heathrow?

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London Heathrow Terminal 5 (Image Credit: British Airways)
London Heathrow Terminal 5 (Image Credit: British Airways)

There has been much interest following an announcement by the US Department for Homeland Security that it is exploring adding US pre-clearance facilities at 10 new airports worldwide.

These airports include London Heathrow and Manchester airport.

Dublin and Shannon airports are the only in Europe to have US pre-clearance facilities and is a key reason behind International Airlines Group’s bid for Aer Lingus.

Put simply, the benefit of pre-clearance is that passengers clear US customs and immigration at a dedicated facility before boarding the aircraft.

On arrival in the US, the flight is treated in the same way as a domestic flight would and passengers can disembark the aircraft and immediately make their way out of the airport, with no further checks.

Anyone who has experienced immigration queues at the likes of New York JFK and Miami airports can testify to the benefits for passengers.

So will pre-clearance come to London Heathrow?

We hope so. However, there are some challenges.

Currently, transatlantic flights depart from four different terminals (Terminal 2 for United, Terminal 3 for American Airlines, Delta and Virgin Altantic, Terminal 4 for Delta, and Terminal 5 for British Airways).

It would not be feasible, nor desired on the part of the airlines, for all transatlantic flights to depart from one terminal, so each terminal would require its own pre-clearance facilities.

Any attempt to limit pre-clearance facilities to one terminal at London Heathrow is likely to be strongly resisted by those airlines whose passengers would not benefit from pre-clearance.

There is also the amount of available space for pre-clearance facilities. The transatlantic market is by far Heathrow’s biggest long-haul market. There are nearly 30 flights a day from London Heathrow to New York alone. Any facility will have to be of a considerable size to be worthwhile for passengers and compatible with efficient airport operations.

Heathrow airport also receives considerable income from letting terminal space to retailers and is likely to want to be compensated for any loss of income as a result of retail space being sacrificed to make way for pre-clearance facilities. Any attempt by Heathrow airport to be compensated through higher charges to airlines is likely to be strongly resisted by them.

So, many challenges and given the amount of work involved, pre-clearance, if it happens, is likely to be many years away.

Heathrow Terminal 1 to close to passengers on Tuesday 30 June

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London Heathrow Terminal 1, 1969 (Image Credit: Heathrow Airport)

On Tuesday 30 June 2015, London Heathrow Terminal 1 will have closed its doors to passengers for the final time after more than 45 years of operation.

The last remaining resident, British Airways, will disperse its flights from the terminal to Terminals 3 and 5*.

Having opened in 1969, Terminal 1 spent most of its life as the principal hub for short-haul traffic, specifically that of British Airways and the now defunct bmi British Midland. In between the opening of Terminal 5 and the new Terminal 2, it was also home to number of Star Alliance carriers, such as Lufthansa and Swiss.

It has been loved for features such as the former “Zone R” BA premium check-in area and loathed for long walkways and the poor condition of many public areas of the terminal.

In its life the terminal has seen wildcat industrial action, the paralysis of operations due to fog and heavy snow, terrorist threats, fire, and even an altercation that led to the arrest of Snoop Dogg.

The closure of Terminal 1 will eventually allow for the expansion of the new Terminal 2.
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London Heathrow Terminal 5 to gain first paid-for-access lounge

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London Heathrow Terminal 5 (Image Credit: British Airways)
London Heathrow Terminal 5 (Image Credit: British Airways)

Ever since London Heathrow Terminal 5 opened seven years ago, a frequent criticism of the terminal has been the absence of a paid-for-access lounge for those who do not have access to BA’s Galleries lounge complex by virtue of frequent flyer status or travel class.

This summer Terminal 5 will gain its own paid-for-access lounge as an “Aspire” lounge is to open in Terminal 5 near Gate 18.

The exact opening date and pricing are yet to be revealed. Though, Aspire do offer annual lounge passes for £259.99 which may work well for some.

We’re not sure why it has taken so long for a lounge to open but this will be a welcome development for many. The standard of third party lounges has improved markedly over the past few years and it should compare favourable to BA’s Galleries Club lounges.

The one point to note is that many BA long-haul flights do depart from the Terminal 5B and 5C satellite terminals and there won’t be paid-for lounge facilities in these satellite terminals.

Update: The opening date of the lounge is Tuesday 4 August 2015 and the cost of lounge access is from £34.99.

ITV to go behind the scenes at London Heathrow

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London Heathrow Terminal 5 (Image Credit: Heathrow)
London Heathrow Terminal 5 (Image Credit: Heathrow)

The behind the scenes documentary shows no signs of running out of steam. We’ve lost count of the number of train companies, hotels and airlines that have opened themselves up to the cameras! ITV has now commissioned a three part documentary series on London Heathrow.

The documentary is being made by independent production company Raw TV. Production has been underway for some time, with the company actively seeking both frequent and nervous flyers late last year.

Of course, this is not the first time Heathrow has opened itself up to the cameras. The BBC ran “Airport Live” in 2013, as well as the long-running docusoap “Airport”.

We’ll provide an update with an expected transmission date as soon as we hear of it.

Update: Episode 1 of “Britain’s Busiest Airport” premiers on ITV at 9pm on Thursday 4 June 2015.  More from the ITV Press Centre.

Heathrow proposes reduced charges for domestic flights

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BA Airbus A319 aircraft at London Heathrow (Image Credit: British Airways)
BA Airbus A319 aircraft at London Heathrow (Image Credit: British Airways)

There was something of a surprise announcement that caught the media’s attention before the Easter break.

Heathrow airport announced that it proposes to reduce its charges to airlines for UK domestic flights by a third from £29.59 to £19.59 per passenger, with effect from 1 January 2017.

This follows the announcement ny Heathrow Airport last month of a route development fund to support up to nine new UK domestic routes.

The rationale for this is that the number of UK domestic destinations from London Heathrow has fallen substantially over the past 25 years and does not compare favourably to rival hubs such as Amsterdam. So Heathrow wishes to encourage many more UK domestic routes.

Will we see more UK domestic destinations from Heathrow?

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A Tale Of Two Routes: Heathrow To Austin & Chengdu

The relative performance of two BA routes to Austin and Chengdu shows why a third runway Heathrow may not result in more routes to Asia.

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British Airways Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner
British Airways Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner (Image Credit: Heathrow)

The owners of Heathrow and Gatwick are currently campaigning for their respective airports to gain an additional runway (a third runway in the case of Heathrow and a second runway in the case of Gatwick) as part of The Airports Commission’s appraisal of the options for additional runway capacity in the South East of England.

The nub of Gatwick’s campaign under the banner “Gatwick Obviously” is that, as well as being able to secure a new runway at much less cost, additional capacity at Gatwick is essential to provide effective competition between Gatwick and Heathrow.

Key to Heathrow’s campaign for a third runway is that additional capacity is essential to secure links between the UK and international growth markets in Asia and elsewhere.

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An Update On London Heathrow Terminal Moves

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Aer Lingus London Heathrow
Aer Lingus London Heathrow (Image Credit: Heathrow)

Here’s a quick update on recent terminal moves at London Heathrow:

1. Heathrow has a new resident in the form of Avianca. The airline is now flying from London Heathrow to Bogota in Columbia four times a week.

Flight AV121 departs from London Heathrow every Tuesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 22:35.

Flight AV120 arrives at London Heathrow from Bogota every Tuesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 14:40 (16:05 on Saturdays).

2. Aer Lingus has now moved all of its flights to Ireland from Terminal 1 to Terminal 2.

3. US Airways has moved its daily flights to Charlotte and Philadelphia from Terminal 1 to Terminal 3 to co-locate with its merger partner American Airlines and fellow Oneworld alliance members.

4. British Airways has moved check-in zones at Terminal 3. BA now uses Zone D, instead of Zone G. This is a temporary measure until February 2015.

Thai Airways & Turkish Airlines Delay Move To Terminal 2

Thai Airways and Turkish Airlines’ moves from London Heathrow Terminal 3 to 2 has been delayed from 2 July 2014 until 28 August 2014

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London Heathrow Terminal 2A Forecourt
London Heathrow Terminal 2A Forecourt (Image Credit: London Heathrow)

Things had appeared to be going well with the opening of Heathrow’s new Terminal 2 with United Airlines, Air Canada, Air China, and ANA now ensconced in the terminal and no sign of a repeat of the disastrous opening of Terminal 5 in 2008.

However, gremlins seem to have emerged.

There was a baggage system failure affecting passengers at Terminal 2 last week. For reasons we don’t entirely understand Terminal 2 is using Terminal 1’s baggage system.

And we don’t know if this is connected, but there have been very well publicised intermittent problems with the baggage system at Terminal 5 caused by software issues over the past few days.

To allow further testing of the baggage system, Thai Airways and Turkish Airlines moves from Terminal 3 to Terminal 2 tomorrow (2 July 2014) has been postponed until Thursday 28 August 2014.

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Heathrow Terminal 2 opens on 4 June 2014 with United

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London Heathrow Terminal 2A Forecourt
London Heathrow Terminal 2A Forecourt (Image Credit: London Heathrow)

Heathrow Terminal 2 “The Queen’s Terminal” opens to the public next week, on 4 June 2014.

The new terminal, the first to open since Terminal 5 in 2008, has been designed by Luis Vidal + Architects.

It will house all Star Alliance member airlines at London Heathrow who are currently split across Terminals 1, 3 and 4. These include United Airlines, Air Canada, Singapore Airlines, SAS, Swiss and Air New Zealand.

The terminal will also house non-alliance members Germanwings (a subsidiary of Lufthansa) and Aer Lingus, as well as Virgin Atlantic’s domestic “Little Red” flights to Manchester, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

United Airlines is the first airline to move into the terminal, consolidating its operations in Terminals 1 (Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco & Washington) and 4 (New York Newark, Houston).

The first flight to arrive at the terminal will be United Airlines flight UA858 from Chicago at 05:55.

The first flight to depart from the terminal will be United Airlines flight UA123 to Washington at 07:30, followed by United Airlines flight UA929 to Chicago – two of seventeen flights due to leave that day.

United Airlines will also have two departure lounges for eligible passengers: A United Club and United Global First Lounge. The lounges will feature floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the airfield and will offer complimentary food & drink and Wi-Fi in addition to business facilities and shower suites.

We also understand that Aer Lingus, Air Canada, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines will have their own lounges for eligible passengers.

One point of interest is that there will be a paid for access Plaza Premium Lounge for passengers who do not have lounge access by virtue of their ticket type or frequent flyer status. The lack of such a lounge in Terminal 5 is a regular comment we hear.

Like Terminal 5, public art features prominently in the terminal.   The consultancy FutureCity has commissioned sculptor Richard Wilson MBA to produce a 70m long sculpture “Slipstream” which was officially unveiled on 23 April.

Of course, this being Heathrow, significant attention has been given to the retail offer in the terminal. The full list of retailers has been published. As well as the standard UK airport fare, two noteworthy tenants are John Lewis and the “Perfectionist’s Cafe” by Heston Blumenthal.

Lessons have been learned from the opening of Terminal 5 in the move of airlines will take place in phases over six months. Air Canada, ANA and Air China will follow United Airlines on 16 June 2014.

As a consequence of the move, Terminal 1 is expected to close in 2016. British Airways will consolidate its operations that are currently across Terminals 1, 3 and 5, into Terminals 3 and 5 in 2015.

More information on Terminal 2 is available on the Heathrow airport website.