Skift Take

Great new terminal, but what Heathrow really, really needs is another runway.

Star Alliance Member Airlines and Heathrow Airport celebrated the arrival of the first flight into the new Terminal 2, the Queen’s Terminal, at Heathrow Airport earlier this week.

Star Alliance member airline United is the first to move in to the new facility, and all 23 Star Alliance airlines operating Heathrow will move in over the next six months. This is the first time all Star Alliance Member airlines will be located together at the airport.

“After many years of planning and construction, tests and optimization, we at Star Alliance are proud to welcome the first passengers into the new terminal,” said Star Alliance CEO Mark Schwab. “It is particularly fitting that one of our five founder members, United, should operate the first flights from this terminal, which sets new standards for Alliance customer service and seamless travel at this important hub airport.”

Terminal 2 was designed by architect Luis Vidal, founder of Vidal + Architects, who also designed the iconic Terminal 4 in Madrid-Barajas. Vidal told our Samantha Shankman in an interview this March 12:

“I design airports around destinations. I think they are gateways into countries. They are the first and last image that people carry with them. In many instances, airports are the only image of a city that people carry with them because they are traveling and don’t get to go to the city. They [airport terminals] are very important in terms of representing a destination.”

The terminal was jointly developed by Heathrow Airport Ltd (HAL), Star Alliance and its member carriers, with the aim of establishing a true seamless hub at one of the world’s premier international airports. It has caught the attention of the world through features like the shimmering aluminum ‘SlipStream’ sculpture by British artist Richard Wilson, which is suspended at the front of the building and is the longest piece of permanent art (262.5 feet long and 85 tons) and the largest privately funded sculpture in Europe. The state-of-the-art terminal also features a number of passenger experience enhancements including 66 self-service kiosks, 60 fast bag drops, and a large selection of shops and restaurants.

The Star Alliance expects 12 million Member passengers to pass through Heathrow every year. It lists the “open and airy” atmosphere of the terminal as one of its key architectural features, also mentioning the “clear view out onto the airport.” Of the passenger experience enhancement features at their new terminal, Star Alliance emphasizes the logical passenger flow, clear signage, and use of technology to facilitate speed and efficiency.

“Eight out of 12 gates at the T2B satellite will allow self-boarding,” the Alliance indicates, “meaning passengers simply pass through a mechanical barrier to board their flight.”

Also key to an improved passenger experience, the terminal has four airline lounges for premium passengers and Star Alliance Gold status card holders.

The remaining 22 airlines will move into the Terminal in stages: “carefully planned to ensure that each group of airlines has time to embed its operations before the next set of carriers moves in.”

Air Canada, Air China and ANA will move in next, transferring their operations to T2 starting June 18th. In July, Aegean, EVA Air, THAI, and Turkish Airlines will start service from the new terminal, together with Avianca–which will launch a service between London and Bogota on July 4.

New airline introduction to Terminal 2 will then take a short break for the European summer holiday period, and will resume in September with EGYPTAIR, Ethiopian Airlines, Scandinavian Airlines and Singapore Airlines. By October, Air New Zealand, Asiana Airlines, Austrian, Brussels Airlines, Croatia Airlines, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, South African Airways, SWISS and TAP Portugal will have moved in.

“Once all airlines are in residence, connections for transfer passengers will be smoother than ever before at Heathrow, with a standardized minimum connection time of just 60 minutes,” states the Star Alliance in its announcement. “The strong Star Alliance hub at Heathrow is expected to act as a catalyst for growth in global passenger traffic to London and to increase the attractiveness of Heathrow as an international transfer airport. It will enhance Heathrow’s standing for the truly frequent international traveller.”

As of 8:00 local time this morning, Heathrow Airport had reported that 300 departing passengers had already checked-in at Terminal 2 and more than 1,000 passengers had arrived at the terminal from incoming flights. United Airlines will operate a total of 34 flights at Terminal 2 today, arrivals and departures, with passengers with origins or destinations in six major US cities: Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York (Newark), San Francisco and Washington (Dulles).

“We are delighted to have welcomed the first passengers to Heathrow’s new Terminal 2 this morning,” Heathrow Airport states. “Operations are currently running smoothly and the new Terminal has opened in line with our expectations.”

Marisa Garcia has worked in aviation since 1994, spending 16 years on the design and manufacturing of cabin interiors and cabin safety equipment. She shares insights gained from this experience on Flight Chic and Tweets as @designerjet.


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Tags: heathrow, lhr, london, star alliance, united airlines

Photo credit: The first flight arriving at Terminal 2 earlier this week. Heathrow Airports Limited

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