Over the Pond – Big Changes at London/Heathrow

LHR - London/Heathrow

After heading east to check in on JFK and Dulles, I just couldn’t stop the momentum . . . so I kept going. Next stop, London/Heathrow airport. It’s easily one of the greatest places on earth for people watching, but it’s also probably the most confusing airport around, especially if you’re connecting between terminals. Here’s a satellite view (thanks, Google) with my own super cool, high-tech overlay showing you the terminal locations.

07_06_01 lhroverview

Now, before any of the really big things that I’m talking about can happen, monstrous T5 (orange) has to open. That’s scheduled for March of next year. This terminal will be British Airways’ pride and joy. They’ll have the entire place to themselves, though the easternmost concourse won’t open until 2010. Once this open next March, the entire airport shifts around and airlines get to line up by alliance.

T4 (green), where BA has most of their long haul flights today, will turn into the SkyTeam alliance terminals. That’s airlines like Air France/KLM, Korean Air, Aeroflot, and eventually Delta, Continental, and Northwest among others.

T3 (blue) will become the oneworld terminal. That is BA’s alliance, but only a couple of their flights will use that terminal, because even with T5 they still don’t have enough gates until 2010. Other than those oddballs, you’ll see American, JAL, Qantas, etc. Also, Virgin, which is unaligned, will keep its own little fortress in T3.

T2 (red) is the original Heathrow terminal, and it will be destroyed while T1 (yellow) will house the Star Alliance – bmi, Lufthansa, United, ANA, and the like. Both of those terminals, however, will make way for the brand-spanking new Heathrow East (in 2012). This mega terminal actually just received approval yesterday, and it’s going to be pretty big.

So with all these changes, Heathrow is primed for growth (finally), right? Survey says . . . bzzzzt. Wrong.

There are still only two runways on the property and that won’t change any time soon. (Thanks obnoxious anti-noise activists who moved to the area long after Heathrow was built.) So why are they building all this?

Well, right now, BA has flights in every single terminal at the airport, I believe. Though many believe it was designed that way just to piss you off, that is actually something they’d like to change. Even for London locals, it’s not fun having to look up where to go each time you fly. So that explains the need for T5. And once BA moves, it’s a mad scramble for the other airlines to get the space they want.

It really will make traveling through London better. Now if we can just get their insanely high taxation rate cut . . .

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2 comments on “Over the Pond – Big Changes at London/Heathrow

  1. … that’s why I prefer Gatwick! Quick, easy, and thanks to the Gatwick Express you can be in Central London in the time it takes to wait in line for passport control at Heathrow’s T3!

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