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London Heathrow‘s £2.5bn new Terminal 2 (T2) has received its first passengers as a transatlantic jet arrived from Chicago.
The United Airlines flight touched down in west London at 5.49am on Wednesday, to be welcomed by Heathrow bosses anxious to show off their new facility.
It was the first of just 34 flights – all operated by United – that will be operating on the terminal’s first day, with airport chiefs mindful of the calamitous Terminal 5 (T5) opening at Heathrow in March 2008.
Realising that the opening of T5, with its queues, delays and missing bags, had been a case of “too much too soon”, the bosses have decided on a phased opening of T2.
The terminal, which has 60 check-in gates and 66 self-check-in kiosks, 29 security lanes, 33 shops, 17 restaurants, more than 7,000 seats, 634 toilets and 42 water fountains, will only run at 10pc of its full capacity for the first few days.
By October, more than 20 other airlines will join United, including Air China, Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa.
One of the first staff at the new terminal was flower-stall operator Mariana Irigui, 40, from Ealing, west London. She said: “The new terminal is beautiful. It’s bright and airy.”
Also early on the scene at a rainy Heathrow was John Holland Kaye, the airport’s development director and who will become Heathrow chief executive later this summer.
“I’ve been too excited to sleep. We’ve already received the first departure passenger who was here at midnight even though their flight to Los Angeles was not until late morning,” he said.
More than 180 trials for T2 have taken place over the last six months involving 14,000 volunteers. As many as 100,000 bags have already passed through the T2 baggage system, with peak loads tested at 4,000 bags per hour compared with an expected peak of 2,500 bags
Every person working at T2 has been required to participate in familiarisation and training sessions with more than 1,700 sessions taking place.
T2 is officially named Terminal 2 The Queen’s Terminal. After today’s operational opening, the Queen, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, will officially open T2 on June 23.
At full capacity, T2 will handle an estimated 15.8 million passengers annually and can take up to 20 million.