Aerial view of Heathrow Airport
|IATA: LHR – ICAO: EGLL|
|Owner||Heathrow Airport Holdings|
|Operator||Heathrow Airport Limited|
|Serves||London, United Kingdom|
|Location||London Borough of Hillingdon|
|Hub for||British Airways|
|Elevation AMSL||83 ft / 25 m|
Heathrow Airport (IATA: LHR, ICAO: EGLL) is a major international airport in west London, England. Heathrow is the busiest airport in the United Kingdom and the busiest airport in Europe by passenger traffic. Heathrow is also the third busiest airport in the world by total passenger traffic. In 2014, it handled a record 73.4 million passengers, a 1.4 percent increase from 2013.
Heathrow lies 12 nautical miles (22 km; 14 mi) west of Central London, and has two parallel east–west runways along with four operational terminals on a site that covers 12.14 square kilometres (4.69 sq mi). The airport is owned and operated by Heathrow Airport Holdings, which itself is owned by FGP TopCo Limited, an international consortium led by the Spanish Ferrovial Group that includes Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec and Government of Singapore Investment Corporation. Heathrow is the primary hub for British Airways and the primary operating base for Virgin Atlantic.
In September 2012, the British Government established the Airports Commission, an independent commission chaired by Sir Howard Davies to look at various options for increasing capacity at UK airports. The commission shortlisted two options for expanding Heathrow in its interim report in 2013, along with a third option for expanding Gatwick Airport. The final report, published on 1 July 2015, backed a third runway at Heathrow.
- 1 Location
- 2 History
- 3 Operations
- 4 Terminals
- 5 Airlines and destinations
- 6 Traffic and statistics
- 7 Other facilities
- 8 Access
- 9 Accidents and incidents
- 10 Future expansion and plans
- 11 See also
- 12 Notes
- 13 References
- 14 External links
Heathrow is 14 mi (23 km) west of central London, near the south end of the London Borough of Hillingdon on a parcel of land that is designated part of the Metropolitan Green Belt. The airport is surrounded by the built-up areas of Harlington, Harmondsworth, Longford and Cranford to the north and by Hounslow and Hatton to the east. To the south lie Bedfont and Stanwell while to the west Heathrow is separated from Colnbrook in Berkshire by the M25 motorway. Heathrow falls entirely under the Hounslow post town of the TW postcode area.
As the airport is west of London and as its runways run east–west, an airliner's landing approach is usually directly over the conurbation of London when the wind is from the west.
Along with Gatwick, Stansted, Luton, Southend and London City, Heathrow is one of six airports with scheduled services serving the London area, although only Heathrow and London City are within Greater London.
- For a chronicled history of Heathrow Airport, see History of London Heathrow Airport.
Heathrow Airport started in 1929 as a small airfield (Great West Aerodrome) on land south-east of the hamlet of Heathrow from which the airport takes its name. At that time there were farms, market gardens and orchards there: there was a "Heathrow Farm" about where Terminal 1 is now, a "Heathrow Hall" and a "Heathrow House". This hamlet was largely along a country lane (Heathrow Road) which ran roughly along the east and south edges of the present central terminals area.
Development of the whole Heathrow area as a very big airfield started in 1944: it was stated to be for long-distance military aircraft bound for the Far East. But by the time the airfield was nearing completion, World War II had ended. The government continued to develop the airfield as a civil airport; opened as London Airport in 1946 and renamed Heathrow Airport in 1966.
Heathrow Airport is used by over 90 airlines flying to 170 destinations worldwide. The airport is the primary hub of British Airways, and is a base for Virgin Atlantic. It has four passenger terminals (numbered 2 to 5) and a cargo terminal. Of Heathrow's 73.4 million passengers in 2014, 93% were international travellers; the remaining 7% were bound for UK destinations. The busiest single destination in passenger numbers is New York, with over 3 million passengers flying between Heathrow and JFK Airport in 2013.
In the 1950s, Heathrow had six runways, arranged in three pairs at different angles in the shape of a hexagram (✡) with the permanent passenger terminal in the middle and the older terminal along the north edge of the field; two of its runways would always be within 30° of the wind direction. As the required length for runways has grown, Heathrow now has only two parallel runways running east–west. These are extended versions of the two east–west runways from the original hexagram. From the air, almost all of the original runways can still be seen, incorporated into the present system of taxiways. North of the northern runway and the former taxiway and aprons, now the site of extensive car parks, is the entrance to the access tunnel and the site of Heathrow's unofficial "gate guardian". For many years the home of a 40% scale model of a British Airways Concorde, G-CONC, the site has been occupied by a model of an Emirates Airbus A380 since 2008.
Heathrow Airport has Anglican, Catholic, free church, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh chaplains. There is a multi-faith prayer room and counselling room in each terminal, in addition to St. George's Interdenominational Chapel in an underground vault adjacent to the old control tower, where Christian services take place. The chaplains organise and lead prayers at certain times in the prayer room.
The airport has its own resident press corps, consisting of six photographers and one TV crew, serving all the major newspapers and television stations around the world.
Most of Heathrow's internal roads are initial letter coded by area: N in the north (e.g. Newall Road), E in the east (e.g. Elmdon Road), S in the south (e.g. Stratford Road), W in the west (e.g. Walrus Road), C in the centre (e.g. Camborne Road).
Aircraft destined for Heathrow usually enter its airspace via one of four main reporting points: Bovingdon (BNN) over Hertfordshire, Lambourne (LAM) over Essex, Biggin Hill (BIG) over Bromley and Ockham (OCK) over Surrey. Each is defined by a VOR radio-navigational beacon. When the airport is busy, aircraft orbit in the associated hold patterns. These holding areas lie to the northwest, northeast, southeast and southwest of the London conurbation. Aircraft hold between 7000 feet and 15000 feet at 1000 foot intervals. If these holds become full, aircraft are held at more distant points before being cleared onward to one of the four main holds.
Air traffic controllers at Heathrow Approach Control (based in Swanwick, Hampshire) then guide the aircraft to their final approach, merging aircraft from the four holds into a single stream of traffic, sometimes as close as 2.5 nautical miles (4.6 km; 2.9 mi) apart. Considerable use is made of continuous descent approach techniques to minimise the environmental effects of incoming aircraft, particularly at night. Once an aircraft is established on its final approach, control is handed over to Heathrow Tower.
When runway alternation was introduced, aircraft generated significantly more noise on departure than when landing, so a preference for westerly operations during daylight was introduced, which continues to this day. In this mode, aircraft depart towards the west and approach from the east over London, thereby minimising the impact of noise on the most densely populated areas. Heathrow's two runways generally operate in segregated mode, whereby arriving aircraft are allocated to one runway and departing aircraft to the other. To further reduce noise nuisance to people beneath the approach and departure routes, the use of runways 27R and 27L is swapped at 15:00 each day if the wind is from the west. When landings are easterly there is no alternation; 09L remains the landing runway and 09R the departure runway due to the legacy of the now rescinded Cranford Agreement, pending taxiway works to allow the roles to be reversed. Occasionally, landings are allowed on the nominated departure runway, to help reduce airborne delays and to position landing aircraft closer to their terminal, reducing taxi times.
Night-time flights at Heathrow are subject to restrictions. Between 23:00 and 07:00, the noisiest aircraft (rated QC/8 and QC/16) cannot be scheduled for operation. In addition, during the night quota period (23:30–06:00) there are four limits:
- A limit on the number of flights allowed;
- A Quota Count system which limits the total amount of noise permitted, but allows operators to choose to operate fewer noisy aircraft or a greater number of quieter planes;
- QC/4 aircraft cannot be scheduled for operation.
- A voluntary agreement with the airlines that no early morning arrivals will be scheduled to land before 04:30.
A trial of "noise relief zones" ran from December 2012 to March 2013, which concentrated approach flight paths into defined areas compared with the existing paths which were spread out. The zones used alternated weekly, meaning residents in the "no-fly" areas received respite from aircraft noise for set periods. However, it was concluded that some residents in other areas experienced a significant disbenefit as a result of the trial and that it should therefore not be taken forward in its current form.
Until it was required to sell Gatwick and Stansted Airports, Heathrow Airport Holdings held a dominant position in the London aviation market, and has been heavily regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) as to how much it can charge airlines to land. The annual increase in landing charge per passenger was capped at inflation minus 3% until 1 April 2003. From 2003 to 2007 charges increased by inflation plus 6.5% per year, taking the fee to £9.28 per passenger in 2007. In March 2008, the CAA announced that the charge would be allowed to increase by 23.5% to £12.80 from 1 April 2008, and by inflation plus 7.5% for each of the following four years. In April 2013, the CAA announced a proposal for Heathrow to charge fees calculated by inflation minus 1.3%, continuing until 2019. Whilst the cost of landing at Heathrow is determined by the CAA and Heathrow Airport Holdings, the allocation of landing slots to airlines is carried out by Airport Co-ordination Limited (ACL).
Until 2008, air traffic between Heathrow and the United States was strictly governed by the countries' bilateral Bermuda II treaty. The treaty originally allowed only British Airways, Pan Am and TWA to fly from Heathrow to the US. In 1991, PAA and TWA sold their rights to United Airlines and American Airlines respectively, while Virgin Atlantic was added to the list of airlines allowed to operate on these routes. The Bermuda bilateral agreement conflicted with the Right of Establishment of the United Kingdom in relation to its EU membership, and as a consequence the UK was ordered to drop the agreement in 2004. A new "open skies" agreement was signed by the United States and the European Union on 30 April 2007 and came into effect on 30 March 2008. Since then, additional US airlines, including Continental (since merged with United), US Airways (in the process of merging with American as of 2014), and Delta have started services to Heathrow.
The airport has been criticised in recent years for overcrowding and delays; according to Heathrow Airport Holdings, Heathrow's facilities were originally designed to accommodate 55 million passengers annually. The number of passengers using the airport reached a record 70 million in 2012. In 2007 the airport was voted the world's least favourite, alongside Chicago O'Hare in a TripAdvisor survey. However, the opening of Terminal 5 in 2008 has relieved some pressure on terminal facilities, increasing the airport's terminal capacity to 90 million passengers per year. A tie-up is also in place with McLaren Applied Technologies to optimise the general procedure, reducing delays and pollution.
With only two runways, operating at over 98% of their capacity, Heathrow has little room for more flights, although the increasing use of larger aircraft such as the Airbus A380 will allow some increase in passenger numbers. It is difficult for existing airlines to obtain landing slots to enable them to increase their services from the airport, or for new airlines to start operations. To increase the number of flights, Heathrow Airport Holdings has proposed using the existing two runways in 'mixed mode' whereby aircraft would be allowed to take off and land on the same runway. This would increase the airport's capacity from its current 480,000 movements per year to as many as 550,000 according to British Airways CEO Willie Walsh. Heathrow Airport Holdings has also proposed building a third runway to the north of the airport, which would have significantly increased traffic capacity (see Future expansion below).
Policing of the airport is the responsibility of the aviation security unit of the Metropolitan Police, although the army, including armoured vehicles of the Household Cavalry, has occasionally been deployed at the airport during periods of heightened security.
Full body scanners are now used at the airport, and passengers who object to their use after being selected are required to submit to a hand search in a private room. The scanners display passengers' bodies as a cartoon-style figure, with indicators showing where concealed items may be. The new imagery was introduced initially as a trial in September 2011 following complaints over privacy.
Terminal 1 opened in 1968 and was formally inaugurated by Queen Elizabeth II in May 1969. Before Terminal 5 opened, Terminal 1 was the base for British Airways' domestic network from Heathrow and for a few of its long haul routes. The airline's owner International Airlines Group's acquisition of British Midland International in 2012 meant British Airways took over BMI's short-haul and medium-haul destinations from the terminal.
British Airways was the last operator in Terminal 1. Two flights of this carrier, one departing to Hannover and one arriving from Baku, marked the terminal closure on 29 June 2015. British Airways operations have been relocated to Terminals 3 and 5. Terminal 1 is due to be demolished, and its site will be used for the extension of Terminal 2, which opened in June 2014. A number of newer boarding gates used by airlines at Terminal 1 were built as part of the Terminal 2 development, and will be retained for continued use by that terminal.
The airport's newest terminal, officially known as the Queen's Terminal, was opened on 4 June 2014. Designed by Spanish architect Luis Vidal, it was built on the site previously occupied by the original Terminal 2 and the Queen's Building. The main complex was completed in November 2013 and underwent six months of testing before opening to passengers. It includes a satellite pier (T2B), a 1,340-space car park, an energy centre and a cooling station to generate chilled water. There are 52 shops and 17 bars and restaurants.
Terminal 2 is used by all Star Alliance members which fly from Heathrow (consolidating the airlines under Star Alliance's co-location policy "Move Under One Roof") with the exception of Air India which uses Terminal 4. Aer Lingus, Little Red (Virgin Atlantic's domestic operation), Germanwings and Icelandair also operate from the terminal. The airlines moved from their original locations over a six-month period with only ten per cent of flights operating in the first six weeks (United Airlines' transatlantic flights) to avoid the opening problems seen at Terminal 5. Development will continue at the terminal to increase capacity in preparation for the closure of Terminal 3 in 2019.
The original Terminal 2 opened as the Europa Building in 1955 and building was the airport's oldest terminal. It had an area of 49,654 m2 (534,470 sq ft) and was designed to handle around 1.2 million passengers annually. In its final years it accommodated up to 8 million. A total of 316 million passengers passed through the terminal in its lifetime. The building was demolished in 2010, along with the Queen's Building which contained the original control tower.
Terminal 3 opened as The Oceanic Terminal on 13 November 1961 to handle flight departures for long-haul routes for foreign carriers to the United States, Asia and other far eastern destinations. At this time the airport had a direct helicopter service to Central London from the gardens on the roof of the terminal building. Renamed Terminal 3 in 1968, it was expanded in 1970 with the addition of an arrivals building. Other facilities added included the UK's first moving walkways. In 2006, the new £105 million Pier 6 was completed to accommodate the Airbus A380 superjumbo; Emirates and Qantas operate regular flights from Terminal 3 using the Airbus A380.
Redevelopment of Terminal 3's forecourt through the addition of a new four lane drop-off area and a large pedestrianised plaza, complete with canopy to the front of the terminal building, was completed in 2007. These improvements were intended to improve passengers' experiences, reduce traffic congestion and improve security. As part of this project, Virgin Atlantic was assigned its own dedicated check-in area, known as 'Zone A', which features a large sculpture and atrium.
As of 2013, Terminal 3 has an area of 98,962 m2 (1,065,220 sq ft) and in 2011 handled 19.8 million passengers on 104,100 flights. In May 2015, it has been announced that Terminal 3 will be demolished by 2019, when Terminal 2 has been completed.
Opened in 1986, Terminal 4 is situated to the south of the southern runway next to the cargo terminal and is connected to Terminals 1, 2 and 3 by the Heathrow Cargo Tunnel. The terminal has an area of 105,481 m2 (1,135,390 sq ft) and is now home to the SkyTeam alliance, as well as some unaffiliated carriers. It has recently undergone a £200m upgrade to enable it to accommodate 45 airlines with an upgraded forecourt to reduce traffic congestion and improve security. An extended check-in area with renovated piers and departure lounges, a new baggage system installed as well as the construction of two new stands to accommodate the Airbus A380 with Malaysia Airlines and Qatar Airways operating regular A380 flights.
Terminal 5 lies between the northern and southern runways at the west end of the Heathrow site and was opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 14 March 2008, some 19 years after its inception. It opened to the public on 27 March 2008, and British Airways and its partner company Iberia have exclusive use of this terminal. The first passenger to enter Terminal 5 was a UK ex-pat from Kenya who passed through security at 04:30 on the day to be presented with a boarding pass by the British Airways CEO Willie Walsh for the first departing flight, BA302 to Paris. During the two weeks after its opening, operations were disrupted by problems with the terminal's IT systems, coupled with insufficient testing and staff training, which caused over 500 flights to be cancelled. Until March 2012, Terminal 5 was exclusively used by British Airways as its global hub; however, because of the merger, on 25 March Iberia's operations at Heathrow were moved to the terminal, making it the home of International Airlines Group.
Built at a cost of £4.3 billion, the new terminal consists of a four-storey main terminal building (Concourse A) and two satellite buildings linked to the main terminal by an underground people mover transit system. The second satellite (Concourse C), includes dedicated aircraft stands for the Airbus A380. It became fully operational on 1 June 2011. Terminal 5 was voted Skytrax World's Best Airport Terminal 2014 in the Annual World Airport Awards.
The main terminal building (Concourse A) has an area of 300,000 square metres (3,200,000 sq ft) while Concourse B covers 60,000 square metres (650,000 sq ft). It has 60 aircraft stands and capacity for 30 million passengers annually as well as more than 100 shops and restaurants.
A further building, designated Concourse D and of similar size to Concourse C, may yet be built to the East of the existing site, providing up to another 16 stands. Following British Airways' merger with Iberia, this may become a priority since the newly combined business will require accommodation at Heathrow under one roof to maximise the cost savings envisaged under the deal. A proposal for Concourse D featured in Heathrow's most recent capital investment plan.
The transport network around the airport has been extended to cope with the increase in passenger numbers. A dedicated motorway spur links the M25 between junctions 14 and 15 to the terminal, which includes a 3,800 space multi-storey car park. A more distant long-stay car park for business passengers is connected to the terminal by a personal rapid transit system, which became operational in Spring 2011. New branches of both the Heathrow Express and the Underground's Piccadilly line serve a new shared Heathrow Terminal 5 station.
Terminal assignments and rearrangements
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (June 2015)|
Following the opening of Terminal 5 in March 2008, a hugely complex programme of terminal moves was implemented. This saw many airlines move so as to be grouped in terminals by airline alliance as far as possible. However, the process was complicated by the acquisition of Star Alliance member BMI by Oneworld member British Airways, the transfer of Continental Airlines from SkyTeam to Star Alliance prior to its merger with United Airlines, and formerly non-aligned carriers such as EVA Air and Malaysia Airlines joining alliances.
Following the opening of Phase 1 of the new Terminal 2 in June 2014, all Star Alliance member airlines (with the exception of new member Air India) along with Aer Lingus, Germanwings and Virgin Atlantic Little Red domestic flights relocated to Terminal 2 in a phased process completed on 22 October 2014. Additionally, by 30 June 2015 all airlines have left Terminal 1 in preparation for its demolition to make room for the construction of Phase 2 of Terminal 2.
- Current terminal assignments
As of 30 June 2015, the terminals are assigned as follows:
|Terminal||Airlines and alliances|
|Terminal 2||Star Alliance (except Air India), Aer Lingus, Germanwings, Icelandair and Virgin Atlantic (domestic destinations)|
|Terminal 3||Oneworld (except Malaysia Airlines and Qatar Airways and including some British Airways destinations), Delta Air Lines (some destinations), Middle East Airlines, Virgin Atlantic (long-haul destinations) and a few non-aligned airlines|
|Terminal 4||SkyTeam (except Middle East Airlines and some Delta Air Lines destinations), Air India, Malaysia Airlines, Qatar Airways and most non-aligned airlines|
|Terminal 5||British Airways (most destinations, except those at Terminal 3) and Iberia|
- Scheduled terminal moves
- British Airways flights to and from Accra, Cape Town, Denver, Las Vegas, Miami, Nairobi, Phoenix and Vancouver flights move from Terminal 5 to Terminal 3 on 14 October 2015.
Airlines and destinations
The following airlines operate regular scheduled flights at London Heathrow Airport:
^1 All US Airways flights will be rebranded as American Airlines flights effective 17 October 2015.
Traffic and statistics
When ranked by passenger traffic, Heathrow is third busiest internationally, behind Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport and Beijing Capital International Airport, as of September 2014.
In 2011, Heathrow was the busiest airport in Europe in total passenger traffic, with 13.9% more passengers than Paris–Charles de Gaulle Airport and 23.0% more than Frankfurt Airport, However, it was in second place behind Charles de Gaulle in total aircraft movements in 2011 with 5.1% fewer landings and take offs than its French counterpart. Heathrow was the third busiest European airport by cargo traffic in 2013, after Paris Charles de Gaulle and Frankfurt.
Heathrow Airport processed 73,405,330 passengers in 2014 (including 34,234 transit passengers). New York JFKremains the most popular destination 2,972,729 passengers. Yet despite being one of the busiest air routes in the world, this amounts to only four percent of all passenger traffic at Heathrow. Even the top ten routes combined account for only twenty-three percent of passenger traffic.
Shown below are the top forty international destinations, each with more than 580,000 passengers or more than 0.8% of total traffic or more than a fifth of the number of passengers for New York JFK. When added together these routes, which include ten destinations in the USA and four in Germany, represent sixty-five percent of all passenger traffic at Heathrow in 2014.
|Rank||Airport||Passengers handled|| % Change
2013 / 14
|1||New York JFK||2,972,729||-1.4|
|9||Paris Charles de Gaulle||1,247,665||3.1|
|35||Dallas Fort Worth||658,449||-0.7|
|Source: UK Civil Aviation Authority|
The top seven domestic destinations are shown below:
|Rank||Airport||Passengers handled|| % Change
2013 / 14
|6||Newcastle upon Tyne||478,806||-0.5|
|Source: UK Civil Aviation Authority|
Annual passenger numbers
The head office of Heathrow Airport Holdings (formerly BAA Limited) is located in the Compass Centre by Heathrow's northern runway, a building that previously served as a British Airways flight crew centre. The World Business Centre Heathrow consists of buildings one and two. 1 World Business Centre houses offices of Heathrow Airport Holdings, Heathrow Airport itself, and Scandinavian Airlines. International Airlines Group has its head office in 2 World Business Centre.
At one time the British Airways head office was located within Heathrow Airport at Speedbird House before the completion of Waterside, the current BA head office in Harmondsworth, in June 1998.
To the north of the airfield lies the Northern Perimeter Road, along which most of Heathrow's car rental agencies are based, and Bath Road, which runs parallel to it, but outside the airport campus – this is nicknamed by locals as "The Strip" owing to its continuous line of airport hotels.
|Heathrow area rail services|
- Heathrow Express: a non-stop service direct to London's Paddington station; trains leave every 15 minutes for the 15-minute journey (21 minutes to/from Terminal 5). Trains depart from Heathrow Terminal 5 station or Heathrow Central station (Terminals 1, 2 & 3). A Heathrow Express transfer service operates between Terminal 4 and Heathrow Central to connect with services from London and Terminal 5.
- Heathrow Connect: a stopping service to Paddington calling at up to five National Rail stations en route – trains leave every 30 minutes for the 27-minute journey. Heathrow Connect services terminate at Heathrow Central station. Calls at Hayes and Harlington for connecting trains to Reading.
- London Underground (Piccadilly line): four stations serve the airport: Heathrow Terminals 1,2,3 tube station, Terminal 4, and Terminal 5 serve the passenger terminals; and Hatton Cross the maintenance areas. The usual journey time from Heathrow Central to Central London is around 40–50 minutes.
- South West Trains has a direct bus transfer to Feltham railway station, allowing passengers to board a train towards Reading or Windsor or Clapham Junction and Waterloo Station.
Bus and coach
Many buses and coaches operate from the large Heathrow airport central bus station serving Terminals 1, 2 and 3, and also from bus stations at Terminals 4 and 5. Services include the following:
- Long-distance coach services operated by National Express and Oxford Bus Company to various parts of the UK, including Victoria Coach Station in London
- HotelHoppa buses connect each terminal with hotels in the Heathrow area
- There are two RailAir coach services connecting nearby railway stations with the airport using dedicated non-stop coaches and running to:
- Reading railway station, connecting with railway services to the West Country, South Wales, Midlands, the North of England and the south coast of England
- Woking railway station, for destinations in Surrey, Hampshire, Dorset and Wiltshire
- A connection to Feltham railway station, for Richmond, Camberley, Bracknell, London Waterloo and Clapham Junction, using London Buses route 285 (route 490 from Terminals 4 and 5)
- Express bus services to Watford, St Albans and Harlow (Green Line route 724), Croydon (London Buses route X26) and High Wycombe (Carousel Buses)
- Local bus services by London Buses, First Berkshire & The Thames Valley and other companies to nearby towns and London suburbs
- Night bus N9 operates to central London at night when the trains do not operate
Between 1981 and 2004, the airport was linked to central London by a group of routes known as Airbus. These routes carried A prefixes before their numbers; one route, A10, operates with such a number to Uxbridge.
Terminals 1, 2 and 3 are within walking distance of each other. Transfers to Terminal 4 and 5 are by Heathrow Express trains or bus. Heathrow Express and Heathrow Connect services between Heathrow Central and Terminals 4 and 5 are free of charge. Normal fare rules apply to London Underground services between terminals. Local buses throughout the airport area are provided free of charge under the "Heathrow FreeFlow" scheme; passengers should tell the driver their destination to ensure they are not charged a fare.
Transit passengers remaining airside are provided free dedicated transfer buses between terminals.
ULTra Personal Rapid Transport opened in April 2011 to shuttle passengers between Terminal 5 and the business carpark at a speed of up to 40 km/h (25 mph). There are 21 small transportation pods that can carry up to four adults, two children, and their luggage. The pods are battery powered and are used on a four kilometre track.The capsules run on demand. The provider claims a 95% availability rate and no accidents so far. Plans to use the same technology to connect terminals 2 and 3 to remote car parks were included in the draft 2014–2019 five-year master plan but have since been deferred due to other priorities.
Taxis are available at all terminals.
Heathrow is accessible via the nearby M4 motorway or A4 road (Terminals 1–3), the M25 motorway (Terminals 4 and 5), and the A30 road (Terminal 4). There are drop-off and pick-up areas at all terminals and short- and long-stay multi-storey car parks. There are further car parks, not run by Heathrow Airport Holdings, just outside the airport: the most recognisable is the National Car Parks facility, although there are many other options; these car parks are connected to the terminals by shuttle buses.
Four parallel tunnels under the northern runway connect the M4 Heathrow spur and the A4 road to Terminals 1–3. The two larger tunnels are each two lanes wide and are used for motorised traffic. The two smaller tunnels were originally reserved for pedestrians and bicycles; to increase traffic capacity the cycle lanes have been modified to each take a single lane of cars, although bicycles still have priority over cars. Pedestrian access to the smaller tunnels has been discontinued, with the free bus services being used instead.
There are (mainly off-road) bicycle routes to some of the terminals. Free bicycle parking places are available in car parks 1 and 1A, at Terminal 4, and to the North and South of Terminal 5's Interchange Plaza.
Accidents and incidents
- On 3 March 1948, Sabena Douglas DC3 OO-AWH crashed in fog. Three crew and 19 of the 22 passengers onboard died.
- On 31 October 1950, BEA Vickers Viking G-AHPN crashed at Heathrow after hitting the runway during a go-around. Three crew and 25 passengers died.
- On 16 January 1955, BEA Vickers Viscount G-AMOK crashed into barriers whilst taking off in fog from a disused runway strip parallel to the desired runway. There were 2 injuries.
- On 22 June 1955, BOAC de Havilland Dove G-ALTM crashed just short of the runway during a filming flight, when the pilot shut-down the incorrect engine. There were no casualties.
- On 1 October 1956, XA897, an Avro Vulcan strategic bomber of the Royal Air Force, crashed at Heathrow after an approach in bad weather. The Vulcan was the first to be delivered to the RAF, and was returning from a demonstration flight to Australia and New Zealand. The pilot and co-pilot ejected and survived, but the four other occupants were killed.
- On 7 January 1960, Vickers Viscount G-AOHU of BEA was damaged beyond economic repair when the nose wheel collapsed on landing. A fire then developed and burnt out the fuselage. There were no casualties among the 59 people on board.
- On 27 October 1965, BEA Vickers Vanguard G-APEE, flying from Edinburgh, crashed on Runway 28R while attempting to land in poor visibility. All 30 passengers and six crew onboard died.
- On 8 April 1968, BOAC Flight 712 Boeing 707 G-ARWE, departing for Australia via Singapore, suffered an engine fire just after take-off. The engine fell from the wing into a nearby gravel pit in Staines, before the plane managed to perform an emergency landing with the wing on fire. However, the plane was consumed by fire once on the ground. Five people – four passengers and a stewardess – died, while 122 survived. Barbara Harrison, a flight attendant on board who helped with the evacuation, was posthumously awarded the George Cross.
- On 3 July 1968, the port flap operating rod of G-AMAD, an Airspeed Ambassador operated by BKS Air Transport failed due to fatigue thereby allowing the port flaps to retract. This resulted in a rolling movement to port which could not be controlled during the approach, causing the aircraft to contact the grass and swerve towards the terminal building. It hit two parked British European Airways Hawker Siddeley Trident aircraft, burst into flames and came to rest against the ground floor of the terminal building. Six of the eight crew died, as did eight horses on board. Trident G-ARPT was written off, and Trident G-ARPI was badly damaged, but subsequently repaired, only to be lost in the Staines crash in 1972.
- On 22 January 1970, Vickers Viscount G-AWXI of British Midland was damaged beyond economic repair when an engine caught fire on take-off. A successful emergency landing was made at Heathrow.
- On 18 June 1972, Trident G-ARPI, operating as BEA548, crashed in a field close to the Crooked Billet Public House, Staines, two minutes after taking off. All 118 passengers and crew on board died.
- On 8 December 1996, a KLM Cityhopper Fokker 50, PH-KVK, operating as KLM483 from Rotterdam, suffered a main gear collapse after landing on runway 09R. The aircraft's touchdown was normal, right mainwheel first. About 5 seconds after all the landing gear were in ground contact the left main landing gear collapsed and the aircraft left wing tip, left propeller and the rear left portion of the fuselage contacted the runway. The aircraft veered to the left coming to rest on the hard surface clear of the runway in Block 81.
- On 5 November 1997, a Virgin Atlantic Airbus A340-300, G-VSKY, made an emergency landing following an undercarriage malfunction. Part of the undercarriage collapsed on landing, and both aircraft and runway were damaged. Recommendations made as a result of the accident included one that aircraft cabin door simulators should more accurately reproduce operating characteristics in an emergency, and another that cockpit voice recorders should have a two-hour duration in aircraft registered before April 1998.
- On 17 January 2008, a British Airways Boeing 777-236ER, G-YMMM, operating flight BA038 from Beijing, crash-landed at Heathrow. The aircraft landed on grass short of the south runway, then slid to the edge of the runway and stopped on the threshold, leading to eighteen minor injuries. The aircraft was later found to have suffered loss of thrust caused by fuel icing.
Terrorism and security incidents
- On 8 June 1968, James Earl Ray, the man convicted of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., was captured and arrested at Heathrow Airport while attempting to leave the United Kingdom on a false Canadian passport.
- On 19 May 1974, the IRA planted a series of bombs in the Terminal 1 car park. Two people were injured by the explosions.
- On 26 November 1983, the Brink's-MAT robbery occurred, in which 6,800 gold bars worth nearly £26 million were taken from a vault near Heathrow. Only a small amount of the gold was recovered, and only two men were convicted of the crime.
- On 17 April 1986, semtex explosives were found in the bag of a pregnant Irishwoman attempting to board an El Al flight. The explosives had been given to her by her Jordanian boyfriend and father of her unborn child Nizar Hindawi. The incident became known as the Hindawi Affair.
- On 21 December 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 from Heathrow to New York/JFK was blown up over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 259 onboard and 11 other people on the ground.
- In 1994, over a six-day period, Heathrow was targeted three times (8, 10, and 13 March) by the IRA, which fired 12 mortars. Heathrow was a symbolic target due to its importance to the UK economy, and much disruption was caused when areas of the airport were closed over the period. The gravity of the incident was heightened by the fact that the Queen was being flown back to Heathrow by the RAF on 10 March.
- In March 2002, thieves stole US$3 million that had arrived on a South African Airways flight.
- In February 2003, the British Army was deployed to Heathrow along with 1,000 police officers in response to intelligence reports suggesting that al-Qaeda terrorists might launch surface-to-air missile attacks at British or American airliners.
- On 17 May 2004, Scotland Yard's Flying Squad foiled an attempt by seven men to steal £40 million in gold bullion and a similar quantity of cash from the Swissport warehouse at Heathrow.
- On 10 August 2006, the airport became the focus of changes in security protocol, following the revelation of a supposed al-Qaeda terrorist plot. New security rules were put in force immediately, causing additional restrictions in regards to carrying liquids onto flights. This caused longer queues and wait times at security. These included the prohibition of carry-on luggage (except essential items such as travel documents and medication) and all liquids – although this rule was later relaxed to allow the carrying onboard of liquid medications and baby milk, if they were tasted first by passengers at the security checkpoint.
- On 25 February 2008, Greenpeace activists protesting against the planned third runway managed to cross the tarmac and climb atop a British Airways Airbus A320, which had just arrived from Manchester Airport. At about 09:45 GMT the protesters unveiled a banner, saying "Climate Emergency – No Third Runway", over the aircraft's tailfin. By 11:00 GMT four arrests had been made.
- On 13 March 2008, a man with a rucksack scaled the perimeter fence onto runway 27R, and ran across the grounds, resulting in his subsequent arrest. A controlled explosion of his bag took place, although nothing suspicious was found, and the Metropolitan Police later said that the incident had not been terrorism related.
- On 13 July 2015, thirteen activists belonging to the climate change protest group Plane Stupid managed to break through the perimeter fence and get onto the northern runway. They chained themselves together in protest, disrupting hundreds of flights. All were eventually arrested.
- Flights from Heathrow were suspended from midday Thursday 15 April 2010 to 22:00 Tuesday 20 April 2010 due to risk of jet engines being damaged by volcanic ash in the upper atmosphere caused by the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland.
- On 18 December 2010, 'heavy' (9 cm, according to the Heathrow Winter Resilience Enquiry) snowfall caused the closure of the entire airport, causing one of the largest incidents at Heathrow of all time. 4,000 flights were cancelled over five days and 9,500 passengers spent the night at Heathrow on 18 December following the initial snowfall. The problems were caused not only by snow on the runways, but also by snow and ice on the 198 parking stands which were all occupied by aircraft.
- On 12 July 2013, an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner parked at Heathrow airport caught fire. There were no passengers aboard and no injuries. The cause is under investigation.
Future expansion and plans
Runway and terminal expansion
In January 2009 the Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon announced that the UK government supported the expansion of Heathrow by building a third 2,200-metre (7,200 ft) runway and a sixth terminal building. This decision followed the 2003 white paper on the future of air transport in the UK, and a public consultation in November 2007. This was a controversial decision which met with widespread opposition because of the expected greenhouse gas emissions, impact on local communities, as well as noise and air pollution concerns.
Before the 2010 General Election the Conservative and Liberal Democrats parties announced that they would prevent the construction of any third runway or further material expansion of the airport's operating capacity. The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has taken the position that London needs more airport capacity, but favours constructing an entirely new airport in the Thames Estuary rather than expanding Heathrow. After the Conservative – Liberal Democrat coalition took power, it was announced that the third runway expansion was cancelled. Two years later, leading Conservatives were reported to have changed their minds.
Another proposed plan for expanding Heathrow's capacity is the Heathrow Hub, which aims to extend both runways to a total length of about 7,000 metres and divide them into four so that they each provide two, full length runways, allowing simultaneous take-offs and landings while decreasing noise levels.
In July 2013, the airport submitted three new proposals for expansion to the Airports Commission, which was established to review airport capacity in the southeast of England. Each involved the construction of a third runway, either to the north, northwest or southwest of the airport. The commission released its interim report in December 2013, shortlisting the northwest third runway option at Heathrow, extending an existing runway at Heathrow and a second runway at Gatwick Airport. Following the publication of the interim report, the government confirmed that no options had been ruled out for airport expansion in the southeast, and that a new runway would not be built at Heathrow before 2015. The full report was published on 1 July 2015, and backed a third northwest runway at Heathrow. Reaction to the report was generally negative, particularly from London Mayor Boris Johnson. One senior Conservative told Channel 4: "Howard Davies has dumped an utter steaming pile of poo on the Prime Minister's desk."
Heathrow railway hub
A plan to make Heathrow an international railway exchange has also been proposed with the potential construction of Heathrow Hub railway station, built on a link to the High Speed 2 railway line. This plan has since been scrapped.
In July 2009, Heathrow Airport Limited submitted an application to the Secretary of State for Transport seeking to gain authorisation to develop a new rail link to Heathrow Terminal 5 to be known as Heathrow Airtrack. The rail link would address the current lack of public transport available to the South West of the Airport by connecting to Guildford, Reading and London Waterloo. BAA stated that the scheme should add significantly to its aim of increasing the proportion of people using public transport to travel to the airport. In April 2011 BAA announced that it was abandoning the project, citing the unavailability of government subsidy and other priorities for Heathrow, such as linking to Crossrail and HS2.
In late 2011 the Department for Transport began studying the feasibility of a high-speed rail link between Gatwick and Heathrow Airport. This rail link would form part of a plan to combine the UK's two biggest airports into a "collective" or "virtual hub" dubbed Heathwick. The scheme envisages a 35-mile (56 km) high-speed rail route linking the two airports in 15 minutes, with trains travelling at a top speed of 180 miles per hour (290 km/h) parallel to the M25 and passengers passing through immigration or check-in only once.
The Mayor of London's office and Transport for London commissioned plans in the event of Heathrow's closure—to replace it by a large built-up area. Some of the plans seem to show terminal 5, or part of it, kept as a shopping centre.
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