The latest news and developments at London Heathrow airport which is home to airlines such as British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, American Airlines, Delta, United, Air Canada, Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines, Qantas, Emirates, Etihad, Qatar Airways, Lufthansa, Aer Lingus, KLM, Eurowings, Swiss, KLM and Air France.
On 18 March 2008, flight SQ308 arrived at London Heathrow from Singapore Changi airport marking the beginning of scheduled Airbus A380 flights between London Heathrow and Singapore.
It was natural that Singapore Airlines would be the first airline to fly the A380 at Heathrow. The airline had long prided itself on industry firsts and having a young fleet of aircraft. Alas, London was not the first city to be served by the Singapore Airlines A380. That honour was bestowed upon Sydney as few months earlier.
Emirates and Qantas soon followed at London Heathrow. As did Etihad, Korean Air, Malaysian Airlines, Qatar Airways, and Thai Airways, albeit with varying frequencies. Emirates now operates no less than 7 Airbus A380 flights from London Heathrow every day – a reflection of the changing dynamics of aviation in the past ten years. Continue reading “10 Years of the Airbus A380 at London 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.