Terminal 2 opening: three lessons Heathrow has learned from Terminal 5

Heathrow's glittering new Terminal 2 - or 'the Queen's Terminal' - opened this week. Airport bosses insisted it wouldn't be a repeat of the Terminal 5 fiasco.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 18 Jul 2014

The first plane (United Airlines flight 958, if you're interested) touched down at Heathrow's brand new Terminal 2 building at 5.49 this morning. It's the culmination of four years and £2.5bn of work.

'I've been too excited to sleep,' John Kaye, the airport's development director, told The Telegraph. Understandable: the new terminal, known as 'The Queen's Terminal' because she'll officially open it later this month, has 60 check-in gates, 66 self-check-in kiosks, 17 restaurants (including Heston Blumenthal's first airport effort), more than 7,000 seats, 42 water fountains and 634 toilets. Its centrepiece is a 78-metre, 77 tonne metal sculpture by Richard Wilson called 'Slipstream', and it's built to handle 20 million people and 100,000 bags.

Obviously, Heathrow's management is keen to avoid the omnishambles that surrounded the opening of Terminal 5, when queues and delays became a national joke - particularly given Heathrow is in the running for a third runway. But the airport insists it's learned its lessons.

1. Start slow

On Terminal 5's opening day in March 2008, a glitch with the baggage handling system resulted in 15,000 stuck bags, 200 cancelled flights and £16m in lost revenue for British Airways, the main airline that uses the terminal. Obviously, this time around Heathrow bosses are keen to avoid a repeat of that: today, Terminal 2 is operating at 10% capacity, with just 34 flights arriving.

2. Build gradually

Eventually, T2 will be home to the 26 airlines forming the Star Alliance, including Aer Lingus, Air Canada and Lufthansa. For now, though, only one airline is using the terminal: United. The rest will arrive over the next six months.

3. Test, test and test again

British Airways blamed its baggage handling problems at Terminal 5 on 'staff familiarisation' (or lack thereof). This time, every single person working at the terminal has been required to participate in one of 1,700 training sessions. And the airport's capacity has been tested repeatedly: 140,000 volunteers have been involved in more than 180 trials over six months. 100,000 bags have already passed through the baggage handing system. Fingers crossed...

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime

Subscribe

Get your essential reading delivered. Subscribe to Management Today