London/Heathrow Gets Ready to Play Musical Airlines

There has been a ton of interesting news to write about in the last few days, and I’d been having trouble figuring out with what to lead . . . until yesterday. Turns out that I was voted one of the the world’s 50 most powerful blogs by The Observer in the UK.

Holy crap! That’s kind of scary. But, I’m guessing that means I’ll have a bunch of new visitors from that side of the Pond (welcome, everyone), so I’m going to post Sunday night instead of my usual Monday morning. And, while I’m being accommodating, let’s focus on something that probably causes you newbies pain and suffering more often than not: Heathrow.

Usually, any discussion of Heathrow involves a lot of cursing, rising blood pressure, and possibly some crying. With any luck, we’ll see less of that in the near future, but it’s likely to get worse in the short term. Why?

Well, we’re getting closer to the big terminal move. On March 27, BA will land its first flights at the brand-spanking new Terminal 5 and that begins a long period of transition for the airport as just about everyone save Virgin Atlantic moves locations.

I’ve tried to put together a handy guide on all the terminal moves so you can actually figure out where you’re supposed to go for your next flight. First, we’ll start with oneworld airlines, since they have the most changes happening the earliest.

Flights Current terminal New terminal When? Done?

American All flights 3 3 No change N/A

British Airways UK domestic flights 1 5 March 27, 2008 Yes

European flights (except for Barcelona, Madrid, Lisbon, Nice and Helsinki), Tripoli, Johannesburg, Algiers, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Tokyo, Hong Kong 1/4 5

Miami 3 5

Warsaw Heathrow Gatwick

Algiers Gatwick 5 March 30, 2008 Yes

Houston, Dallas Gatwick 4

New York/JFK, Abuja, Bangalore, Beijing, Cairo, Cape Town, Lagos, Phoenix 4 5 June 5, 2008 Yes

Abu Dhabi, Accra, Bahrain, Baltimore, Buenos Aires, Chicago, Dallas, Dar es Salaam, Doha, Entebbe, Grand Cayman, Houston, Kuwait, Luanda, Lusaka, Mauritius, Mexico, Mumbai, Muscat, Nairobi, Nassau, Newark, Philadelphia, Providenciales, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Tel Aviv, Toronto, Washington/Dulles 4 5 September 17, 2008 Yes

Boston, Calgary, Chennai, Delhi, Denver, Dhaka, Dubai, Islamabad, Kolkata, Montreal, Seattle, Shanghai 4 5 October 22, 2008 Yes

Barcelona, Helsinki, Lisbon, Madrid, Nice 1 3 February 25, 2009 Yes

Bangkok, Singapore, Sydney 4 3 2008 Yes

Cathay Pacific All flights 3 3 No change N/A

Finnair All flights 1 3 January 27, 2009 Yes

Iberia All flights 2 3

Japan Air Lines All flights 3 3 No change Yes

Qantas All flights 4 3 Early 2009 Yes

Royal Jordanian All flights 3 3 No change N/A

Now let’s take a look at SkyTeam. In short, when Delta, Northwest, and Continental start flying to Heathrow in March, they’ll be in BA’s old Terminal 4. The rest of the carriers won’t move until early 2009, when a major terminal renovation will have been completed. Anyone who has flown BA out of that terminal lately knows that it is in desperate need of some help.

Flights Current terminal New terminal When? Done?

Aeroflot All flights 2 4 November 17, 2009 Yes

Air France All flights 2 4 November 24, 2009 Yes

Alitalia All flights 2 4 November 10, 2009 Yes

Continental All flights N/A 4 March 30, 2008 Yes

Czech All flights 2 4 November 24, 2009 Yes

Delta All flights N/A 4 March 30, 2008 Yes

Kenya Airways All flights 4 4 No change N/A

KLM All flights 4 4 No change N/A

Korean All flights 3 4 November 10, 2009 Yes

I’d like to list the Star Alliance changes here as well, but I haven’t been able to find them. In fact, while oneworld and SkyTeam have been on top of the changes, Star Alliance has been silent. I sent the alliance a request and their response left me wondering if they actually meant to insult my intelligence or if they just don’t speak English very well.

We would like to inform you, however, that the Star Alliance is a network of 19 individual airlines. Operational matters are handled by the airlines themselves. Therefore, for more information, you will need to contact the individual Star Alliance member airlines directly.

Really? You guys aren’t an airline yourself? No sh**. Well, I also asked United directly and spokesperson Robin Urbanski told me that the airline will be moving to Terminal 1, but it’s unclear when that might be and that will happen on June 1. Clearly, this alliance is a little less organized, probably because the changes aren’t coming as quickly as with the others.

We know that the airlines in Terminal 1 will stay there for now. Terminal 2 will be demolished starting this year, so those guys have to move somewhere. On March 27, BA moves nearly all of its domestic and European flights out of Terminal 1, so I have to assume that everyone from Terminal 2 will move in before their terminal disappears. Will the Terminal 3 airlines move at the same time or will they stay longer? My guess is that they won’t move immediately because there’s no urgency. Here’s how they stack up right now along with my best guesses as to where they’ll go. The only thing I know for sure is that US Airways will go to Terminal 1 when it starts service to the airport on March 30.

Update 3/25 @ 822a – Star has put out a press release with much more guidance. All Star carriers will be expected to move to Heathrow East in 2012 when the terminal is completed, but I haven’t included those changes in here.

Flights Current terminal New terminal When? Done?

Air Canada All flights 3 3 No change N/A

Air China All flights 3 3 No change N/A

Air New Zealand All flights 3 1 June 10, 2008 Yes

ANA All flights 3 3 No change N/A

Asiana All flights 1 1 No change N/A

Austrian All flights 2 1 November 2008 Yes

Blue 1 All flights N/A 3 March 30, 2008 Yes

bmi All flights 1 1 No change N/A

Croatia All flights 2 1 November 2008 Yes

LOT All flights 1 1 No change N/A

Lufthansa All flights 2 1 November 2008 Yes

SAS All flights 3 3 No change N/A

Singapore All flights 3 3 No change N/A

South African All flights 1 1 No change N/A

Swiss All flights 2 1 October 2008 Yes

TAP All flights 2 1 November 2008 Yes

Thai All flights 3 3 No change N/A

Turkish All flights 3 3 No change N/A

United All flights 3 1 July 4, 2008 Yes

US Airways All flights N/A 1 March 30, 2008 Yes

Of course, not all airlines are in alliances. Virgin Atlantic, for example, will stay in Terminal 3, so you won’t see any changes there. All other unaligned airlines (except for former oneworld member Aer Lingus which will be in Terminal 3) will end up in Terminal 4. Again, I’m not entirely sure when that might happen, but one thing is clear . . . there will be a lot of confusion at Heathrow until things settle down, and that could take years.

If you have to go to the airport in the near future, leave plenty of time and bring lots of patience. If you have the misfortune of connecting through Heathrow, especially while these changes are in progress, may God have mercy on your souls.

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