Terminal 5 will improve airport’s efficiency ahead of 2012 Olympics
HIGH PRAISE: Terminal 5 has been dubbed ‘an architectural and engineering tour de force’. — PHOTO: PA PHOTOS
LONDON – BRITISH Airways has unveiled its new terminal at Heathrow Airport – a light-flooded, gleaming white modern facility with some of the latest technology, a first-class lounge with a cinema and a five-storey-high wall of windows offering a view of Windsor Castle.
Terminal 5 has 144 stores and restaurants, costs £4.3 billion (S$12 billion) and took British airports operator BAA seven years to build.
The new terminal is part of an effort to improve the world’s busiest international airport in time for the 2012 London Olympics, and has been 26 years in the making from the initial plans to the finished product.
More than 30 million people are expected to pass through it every year, their bags processed at the rate of 12,000 per hour at 140 check-in desks.
The terminal will only serve BA customers and will handle its first flight on March 27.
Mr Robert Boyle, BA’s commercial director, told reporters on a tour of the new terminal that the airline cannot afford to have its reputation compromised by inadequacies at Heathrow.
Terminal 5 by the numbers
‘We have to compete with business-class-only airlines, traditional ones and no-frill ones,’ Mr Boyle said. ‘Each year, surveys of frequent flyers around the world praise BA and criticise Heathrow for its delays, poor baggage handling and crowded terminals.’
The new terminal, designed to make travel easier and more comfortable, features X-ray machines that do not require travellers to remove their shoes and belts as well as unmanned check-in kiosks that can screen a passenger’s passport or scan a visa.
First-class and business lounges are luxuriously furnished with chandeliers, wine racks and, in one, a cinema.
Terminal 5’s completion shows how hard cities such as London are willing to work to maintain their status as world business and tourist hubs, commissioning showcase structures that act as shopping malls with art galleries, spas and Internet access.
Terminals can be profitable in an era of tightened security, as travellers show up hours before their flights and then shop or eat while waiting to take off.
Terminal 5 will include a 400m-long main building at the west end of Heathrow for domestic and short-haul flights, and two nearby satellite buildings that will primarily handle long-haul services. The buildings will be connected by an underground shuttle.
The main building, which has a white steel roof 35m high, overlooks a valley and the five-storey-high wall of windows provides a view of Windsor Castle, a principal official residence of Queen Elizabeth II. Visitors can also see the arc at Wembley Stadium.
The Guardian newspaper said the terminal is ‘an architectural and engineering tour de force that raises the standards of British airport design 100 per cent’. The Daily Mirror called it ‘an awe-inspiring temple to the twin gods of air travel and shopping’.
The terminal will have access to subway lines and the Heathrow Express train service into central London.
Heathrow came under fire from airlines, passengers and politicians last year for delays, lost baggage and long lines at security checkpoints.
The airport is currently handling 67 million passengers a year in buildings designed for 45 million, and has in recent years been slipping down the league tables of European airports.
Plans also are under way to replace Terminal 2, Heathrow’s oldest, with a new one called Heathrow East. Work is due to be completed before the Olympics.