London Heathrow Terminal 5 Opens

The biggest construction work over the last years is finished and the largest standalone building of the UK has started its everyday business today. The UK’s flagship building is solely to be used by British Airways (BA), the UK’s flag carrier. BA promises that connections will be much faster (~20 mins), and also time spent at the Terminal while departing will also be significantly reduced (~10 mins), as they plan with most of the passengers checking in online before arriving to the airport and then “flying” through the Departures area very quickly. To allow this, 96 fast-bag drops have been installed with the same number of self-service check-in kiosks for those who had no time to check-in from their office, home or mobile phone. According to the website of British Airways, all passengers must be ready to fly (passed check-in and security) 35 minutes before their flights, which means on a normal operational day you can arrive at the airport only 45 minutes before your flight (but this is a theoretical minimum, we believe this means 55-60 minutes in reality…) – if you’re an experienced self check-in kiosk user or have used online check-in and do not have any baggages to check-in.

Terminal 5 banner on

A Green Building

Following the first idea about a fifth terminal in as early as 1982, construction finally started on the £4.3 billion pound project in September 2002 (5.5 years ago) and has been on time and on budget. 2006 Stirling Prize winner the Richard Rogers Partnership designed the 40 metre high, 396 metres long and 176 metres wide, 5 level Terminal 5. It is built between Heathrow’s two runways, on reclaimed land previously occupied by a sludge works. The project has successfully moved 9 million cubic metres of earth and two rivers have been diverted to create space for the new building. The area now is home to 30.000 woodland plants and 4.000 trees and is planned to have more in the next two years. On top of this green initiative, the building will be operated with as small environmental effects as possible:
  • Water conservation – 85 per cent of the water that falls on T5 will be collected and reused
  • Recycling – 97 per cent of the construction waste was reused and passengers can contribute by recycling their waste at special facilities around the terminal
  • Lighting – the predominantly glass constructed building allows in natural sunlight, reducing the need for artificial lighting (30.000 square metres of reinforced glass and 5.500 glass panels also guarantee the light and airy feel)
  • Heat – 85 per cent of the heat required by the building is provided by waste heat from the existing airport heat and power station

The terminal housing the longest baggage carousel system in the world will be able to handle 30 million passengers every year, raising the total capacity of Heathrow to 90 million from 68 million currently (while the airport was originally designed for 45 million…). The main terminal building is home to Concourse A, while the satellite Concourse B has been finished as well (with dedicated stands for the Airbus A380 superjumbo – already on order with BA), and is connected to the main building by an underground people mover system. The opening of Concourse C is scheduled for 2010. Alltogether, Terminal 5 will have 60 aircraft stands.

All sorts of traffic means are connected to the building, including Heathrow Express rail service as well as the London Underground’s Piccadilly Line. 4.000 cars can be parked in the new Parking Garage, but there are bicycle routes up to the terminal as well, with free bicyle parking in car parks 1 and 1A.

BA will use Terminal 5 as the only one carrier, but Terminal 5 will not be the only one terminal used by BA, as they are forced to keep some of their services on Terminal 3. You can find the list of destinations served by BA and their Terminals here. There will also be a frequent coach service launched between Terminals 3 and 5 to allow BA passengers to easily transfer between the two terminals used by the British carrier.

The first flight to arrive is BA 026 from Hong Kong, piloted by BA’s first woman pilot, Captain Lynn Barton, due to touch down at 4.50am. She has described the role as “a huge honour”. The first flight to depart is heading for Paris at 6.20pm with a further 380 (what a coincidence with the A380…) flights due to arrive or depart at the terminal on its first day. The BA move will involve a convoy of more than 1,000 vehicles, including 360 baggage trailers, 240 cargo containers and 27 short-haul aircraft. More than 2,500 ground staff will also make the move, with another 3,000 to follow on the 30th of April.

Once airside, BA passengers will be able to kill time in an enormous shopping mall and a range of cafes and restaurants – the list of outlets includes Harrods, Prada, Bulgari, Wagamama, Gordon Ramsay, Paul Smith and Carluccio’s as well as Starbucks among many-many others.

by balint01

15 Responses to “London Heathrow Terminal 5 Opens”

  1. 1 Stacey Derbinshire March 27, 2008 at 2:28 am

    I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

    Stacey Derbinshire

  2. 3 hongkonger229 March 27, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    congrats T5! as a hker, very proud to be a part of this celebratory ocassion even though i wasn’t on the first flight. traveler experience (from the article) seems very positive, so i guess the rumour is true.

    fast check-ins, no line-up and new baggage claim system – all too good to be true. look forward to the new T5 experience during my summer trip.

  3. 4 szafi March 27, 2008 at 6:48 pm

    Thank you, Stacey!

  4. 5 szafi March 27, 2008 at 7:18 pm

    Apparently there were some problems on the first day:

    Thirty-three flights have been cancelled and luggage problems have caused chaos as Heathrow’s new fifth terminal got off to a bumpy start.
    In addition to the cancellations, which included incoming and outgoing flights, three planes left without baggage and incoming passengers were forced to wait up to two hours for their luggage to come through.

    See full article here:

  5. 6 balint01 March 28, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    The second day still sees lots of problems:

  6. 7 aviavip in russia March 29, 2008 at 9:36 am

    Excuse me for my bad English..

    Such cases are Shockingly! In Russia. Where on streets polar bears go, such occurs constantly… But, has the smaller size

    Please let me place Russian translation of a small fragment of your text about Heathrow with the link to the original page at your web-site

  7. 8 szafi March 29, 2008 at 10:17 am

    Dear aviavip,

    you are always welcome to quote or to publish parts of our articles, just please refer back to us. 🙂

  8. 9 aviavip in russia March 29, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    Thank! I by all means shall do the reference to your original text.

  9. 11 Lee Richards April 8, 2008 at 4:09 pm

    Nice blog, will definitely bookmark it. It’s a shame about the problems at T5, it has turned into a bit of an embarrassment for us Brits, but hopefully they’re only teething problems and in a few weeks the problems will be a distant memory and the terminal will be viewed as a state of the art facility. Hopefully 😉

  10. 12 balint01 April 9, 2008 at 2:35 pm

    And then came the bad weather over the last weekend:

  11. 13 achraf April 10, 2008 at 6:27 pm

    Thank you indeed for all these information .While in Casablanca Morocco the authorities opened a new terminal (3).All the voices rose criticizing this new station because of some technical problems .Among the people i met were british crews who were showing that the opening of terminal 5 in london will but to ensure zero anomaly of the checking process and especially bags delivery that was the source of the discussion .News came and with the opening of this terminal not only delivery problems rose but it was total chaos .
    I think that between theory and practice / reality there is a large deference and for passengers they must help only by being patient .I am sure that terminal 5 with few temporary problems will be later a pearl to be proud of.
    Same thing for passengers of terminal 3 in casablanca ,Later they will enjoy it but only by being patient and helping by pratcical comments and suggestions.

    thank you balint .

  12. 14 balint01 April 14, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    Achraf, thanks for the information and the nice words. I agree with your opinion, and I hope things will get ironed out on T5 and in a few years time we’ll say, “Yes, I always try to connect thought T5, I just love that smooth terminal.” Probably the same will go with Casablanca, even though it is not that famous and not as gigantic of a project as T5.

    However, the problems still circle through, with the latest news that other Heathrow airlines are complaining about:

  1. 1 BA Executives Were Fired For Terminal 5 Chaos « Airline world Trackback on April 16, 2008 at 10:24 pm

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