Heathrow Airport

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Heathrow Airport
Heathrow Logo 2013.svg
London - Heathrow (LHR - EGLL) AN1572653.jpg
Airport typePublic
OwnerHeathrow Airport Holdings
OperatorHeathrow Airport Limited
ServesLondon, England
LocationHillingdon, London
Hub forBritish Airways
Elevation AMSL83 ft / 25 m
Coordinates51°28′39″N 000°27′41″W / 51.47750°N 0.46139°W / 51.47750; -0.46139Coordinates: 51°28′39″N 000°27′41″W / 51.47750°N 0.46139°W / 51.47750; -0.46139
LHR is located in Greater London
LHR is located in the United Kingdom
LHR is located in Europe
Direction Length Surface
m ft
09L/27R 3,902 12,802 Grooved asphalt
09R/27L 3,660 12,008 Grooved asphalt
Statistics (2017)
Passenger change 16-17Increase3.1%
Aircraft movements475,783
Movements change 16-17Increase0.2%
Statistics from the UK Civil Aviation Authority[1]

Heathrow Airport (also known as London Heathrow)[2] (IATA: LHR, ICAO: EGLL) is a major international airport in London, United Kingdom. Heathrow is the second busiest airport in the world by international passenger traffic, as well as the busiest airport in Europe by passenger traffic, and the seventh busiest airport in the world by total passenger traffic. It is one of six international airports serving Greater London. In 2017, it handled a record 78.0 million passengers, a 3.1% increase from 2016.[1]

Heathrow lies 14 miles (23 km) west of Central London,[3] and has two parallel east–west runways along with four operational terminals on a site that covers 12.27 square kilometres (4.74 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 Ferrovial that also includes Qatar Holding LLC, Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, GIC Private Limited, Alinda Capital Partners, China Investment Corporation and Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS).[4] London Heathrow is the primary hub for British Airways and the primary operating base for Virgin Atlantic.

In September 2012, the UK government established the Airports Commission, an independent commission chaired by Sir Howard Davies to examine various options for increasing capacity at UK airports. In July 2015, the commission backed a third runway at Heathrow, which the government approved in October 2016.[5][6][7]


A Qantas Boeing 747-400 on approach to London Heathrow runway 27L[8]

Heathrow is 14 mi (23 km) west of central London,[3] 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 villages 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 Slough in Berkshire by the M25 motorway. Heathrow falls entirely under the Twickenham postcode area, with the postcode TW6.

As the airport is located 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, which is most of the time.

Along with Gatwick, Stansted, Luton, Southend and London City, Heathrow is one of six airports with scheduled services serving the London area.


Aerial photo of Heathrow Airport from the 1950s, before the terminals were built

Heathrow Airport originated 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 much larger airport began 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 airport as a civil airport. The airport was opened on 25 March 1946 as London Airport and was renamed Heathrow Airport in 1966. The masterplan[clarification needed] for the airport was designed by Sir Frederick Gibberd, who designed the original terminals and central area buildings, including the original control tower and the multi-faith chapel of St George's.



Central waiting area in Terminal 5
Concorde G-BOAB in storage at Heathrow
Four aircraft on the approach to Heathrow runway 09L
Heathrow's control tower
British Airways aircraft at Terminal 5C

Heathrow Airport is used by over 80 airlines flying to 185 destinations in 84 countries. 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 (or arriving from) places in the UK.[9] The busiest single destination in passenger numbers is New York, with over 3 million passengers flying between Heathrow and JFK Airport in 2013.[10]

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.[11]

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.[12]

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.[13]

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).

Flight movements[edit]

Aircraft destined for Heathrow are usually routed to one of four holding points.

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 minimize the environmental effects of incoming aircraft, particularly at night.[14] 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.[15] In this mode, aircraft depart towards the west and approach from the east over London, thereby minimizing 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 04:00, 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;[16]
  • 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.[17] 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. Heathrow received more than 25,000 noise complaints in just three months over the summer of 2016, but around half were made by the same ten people.[18]


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.[19] In April 2013, the CAA announced a proposal for Heathrow to charge fees calculated by inflation minus 1.3%, continuing until 2019.[20] 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).[21]

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. Shortly afterwards, additional US airlines, including Northwest Airlines, Continental Airlines, US Airways and Delta Air Lines started services to Heathrow.

The airport has been criticized in recent years for overcrowding and delays;[22] 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.[23] In 2007 the airport was voted the world's least favorite, alongside Chicago O'Hare, in a TripAdvisor survey.[24] 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 optimize the general procedure, reducing delays and pollution.[25]

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.[26] 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.[27] Heathrow Airport Holdings has also proposed building a third runway to the north of the airport, which would significantly increase traffic capacity (see Future expansion below).[28]


Policing of the airport is the responsibility of the aviation security unit of the Metropolitan Police, although the army, including armored 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.[29] The scanners display passengers' bodies as a cartoon-style figure, with indicators showing where concealed items may be.[29] The new imagery was introduced initially as a trial in September 2011 following complaints over privacy.[30]


The airport has 4 active terminals. Terminal 1 is a disused terminal that was closed in 2015. It formerly housed Star Alliance airlines along with some British Airways destinations. Terminal 2, the newest terminal formerly served Virgin Atlantic Little Red and now houses Star Alliance members along with Aer Lingus, Eurowings, the new Flybe, and Icelandair. Terminal 3 houses Oneworld and some SkyTeam members, Virgin Atlantic, Delta Air Lines, Garuda Indonesia, Middle East Airlines, all new airlines, and few other unaffiliated members with the exception of Iberia, Malaysia Airlines and Qatar Airways. Terminal 4 serves SkyTeam, Malaysia Airlines and Qatar Airways, and most unaffiliated members. It also formerly operated Air India as well, who have joined Star Alliance in Terminal 2. Terminal 5 houses the International Airlines Group-British Airways and Iberia.

Terminal 1 (defunct)[edit]

Terminal 1 opened in 1968 and was inaugurated by Queen Elizabeth II in April 1969.[31][32] Before Terminal 5 opened, Terminal 1 was the Heathrow base for British Airways' (BA) domestic and European network and for a few of its long haul routes. The acquisition of British Midland International (BMI) in 2012 by BA's owner International Airlines Group meant British Airways took over BMI's short-haul and medium-haul destinations from the terminal.[33] Terminal 1 was also the main base for most Star Alliance members, some Star Alliance members were also based at Terminal 3.

Terminal 1 closed at the end of June 2015. Its site is being used for an extension to Terminal 2,[34] which opened in June 2014. A number of newer boarding gates used by Terminal 1 had been built as part of the Terminal 2 development and are being retained as part of Terminal 2.[35][36] The last tenants along with British Airways were El Al, Icelandair, the one who moved to Terminal 2 on 25 March 2015, and LATAM Brasil, the third one to move in to Terminal 3 on 27 May, 2015. 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.[37]

Terminal 2[edit]

Terminal 2 central departures area

The airport's newest terminal, officially known as the Queen's Terminal, was opened on 4 June 2014.[38][39] Designed by Spanish architect Luis Vidal, it was built on the site that had been occupied by the original Terminal 2 and the Queens Building.[40][41] 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 center[clarification needed] and a cooling station to generate chilled water. There are 52 shops and 17 bars and restaurants.[42]

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"). Aer Lingus, Eurowings, Flybe and Icelandair also operate from the terminal. Tianjin Airlines is a possible new member at Terminal 2. The airlines moved from their original locations over a six-month period, with only 10% of flights operating from there in the first six weeks (United Airlines' transatlantic flights) to avoid the opening problems seen at Terminal 5. On 4 June 2014, United Airlines became the first airline to move into Terminal 2 from Terminals 1 and 4 followed by All Nippon Airways, Air Canada and Air China from Terminal 3. Air New Zealand, Asiana Airlines, Croatia Airlines, LOT Polish Airlines, South African Airways, and TAP Air Portugal were the last airlines to move in on 22 October 2014 from Terminal 1.[43] Development will continue at the terminal to increase capacity in preparation for the closure of Terminal 3 in 2019.[44]

The original Terminal 2 opened as the Europa Building in 1955 and 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 Queens Building which had housed airline company offices.[45]

Terminal 3[edit]

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.[46] 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[47] 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 by 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' experience, reduce traffic congestion and improve security.[48] 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 it handled 19.8 million passengers on 104,100 flights.[49] Terminal 3 is home to Oneworld members with the exception of Iberia, which uses Terminal 5, Malaysia Airlines and Qatar Airways which use Terminal 4, SkyTeam members Delta Air Lines, Middle East Airlines, all new airlines and a few unaffiliated carriers.

Terminal 4[edit]

Terminal 4 bird's-eye view

Opened in 1986, Terminal 4 is situated to the south of the southern runway next to the cargo terminal and is connected to Terminals 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, with the exception of Delta Air Lines and Middle East Airlines, which use Terminal 3, Oneworld carriers Malaysia Airlines and Qatar Airways, and to most unaffiliated carriers. It has undergone a £200m upgrade to enable it to accommodate 45 airlines with an upgraded forecourt to reduce traffic congestion and improve security. Most flights that go to Terminal 4 are flights coming from Asia and North Africa, as well as a few flights to Europe. An extended check-in area with renovated piers and departure lounges and a new baggage system were installed, and two new stands were built to accommodate the Airbus A380; Etihad Airways, Korean Air, Malaysia Airlines and Qatar Airways operate regular A380 flights.[50] EL AL operates some regular Boeing 747 flights.

Terminal 5[edit]

Terminal 5 bird's-eye view

Terminal 5 lies between the northern and southern runways at the western end of the Heathrow site and was opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 14 March 2008,[51] 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. He was 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.[52] 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.[53]

Built at a cost of £4.3 billion, the terminal consists of a four-story 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.[54]

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).[55] It has 60 aircraft stands and capacity for 30 million passengers annually as well as more than 100 shops and restaurants.[56]

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 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 terminal to the M25 (between junctions 14 and 15). The terminal has a 3,800 space multi-story 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 the spring of 2011.[57] New branches of both the Heathrow Express and the Underground's Piccadilly line serve a new shared Heathrow Terminal 5 station.

Terminal assignments[edit]

As of December 2018, Heathrow's four passenger terminals are assigned as follows:[58]

Terminal Airlines and alliances
Terminal 2 Star Alliance and a few non aligned airlines
Terminal 3 Oneworld (except Malaysia Airlines, Qatar Airways, Iberia and most British Airways destinations), Virgin Atlantic, Delta Air Lines, Middle East Airlines and several non-aligned airlines
Terminal 4 SkyTeam (except Delta Air Lines and Middle East Airlines), Malaysia Airlines, Qatar Airways and most non-aligned airlines
Terminal 5 British Airways (most destinations, except those at Terminal 3) and Iberia

Following the opening of Terminal 5 in March 2008, a 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.[59]

Following the opening of Phase 1 of the new Terminal 2 in June 2014, all Star Alliance member airlines[60] (with the exception of new member Air India which moved in early 2017) along with Aer Lingus and Germanwings relocated to Terminal 2 in a phased process completed on 22 October 2014. Additionally, by 30 June 2015 all airlines left Terminal 1 in preparation for its demolition to make room for the construction of Phase 2 of Terminal 2.[61] Some other airlines made further minor moves at a later point, e.g. Air India moving from Terminal 4 to the other Star Alliance carriers in Terminal 2[62] or Delta Air Lines merging all departures in Terminal 3 instead of a split between Terminals 3 and 4.[63]

Airlines and destinations[edit]


The following airlines operate regular scheduled passenger flights at London Heathrow Airport:[64]

Aegean AirlinesAthens
Aer LingusBelfast–City, Cork, Dublin, Shannon
AeroméxicoMexico City
Air AlgérieAlgiers
Air AstanaAstana
Air Canada[65]Calgary, Halifax, Montréal–Trudeau, Ottawa, St. John's, Toronto–Pearson, Vancouver
Air ChinaBeijing–Capital, Chengdu (begins 2 April 2019)[66]
Air France[67]Paris–Charles de Gaulle
Air IndiaAhmedabad, Bengaluru, Delhi, Mumbai
Air MaltaMalta
Air MauritiusMauritius
Air New ZealandAuckland, Los Angeles
Air SerbiaBelgrade
AlitaliaMilan–Linate, Rome–Fiumicino
All Nippon AirwaysTokyo–Haneda
American Airlines[68]Charlotte, Chicago–O'Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles, Miami, New York–JFK, Philadelphia, Raleigh/Durham
Seasonal: Phoenix–Sky Harbor (begins 31 March 2019)[69]
Asiana AirlinesSeoul–Incheon
Austrian AirlinesVienna
Azerbaijan AirlinesBaku
Beijing Capital AirlinesQingdao
Biman Bangladesh AirlinesDhaka, Sylhet
British Airways[70]Aberdeen, Abu Dhabi, Abuja, Accra, Amman–Queen Alia, Amsterdam, Athens, Atlanta, Austin, Bahrain, Baltimore, Bengaluru, Bangkok–Suvarnabhumi, Barcelona, Basel/Mulhouse/Freiburg, Beijing–Capital, Beirut, Belfast–City, Berlin–Tegel, Bilbao (ends 31 March 2019),[71] Billund, Bologna, Boston, Brussels, Bucharest–Otopeni, Budapest, Buenos Aires–Ezeiza, Cairo, Cape Town, Chennai, Chicago–O'Hare, Copenhagen, Dallas/Fort Worth, Delhi, Denver, Doha, Dubai–International, Dublin, Durban, Düsseldorf, Edinburgh, Frankfurt, Geneva, Gibraltar, Glasgow-International, Gothenburg, Gran Canaria, Grand Cayman, Hamburg, Hanover, Helsinki, Hong Kong, Houston–Intercontinental, Hyderabad, Innsbruck, Inverness, Istanbul–Atatürk (ends 29 December 2018),[72] Istanbul–Havalimanı (begins 1 January 2019),[73] Jeddah, Johannesburg–OR Tambo, Kyiv–Boryspil, Kraków, Kuala Lumpur–International, Kuwait City, Lagos, Larnaca, Las Vegas, Leeds/Bradford, Lisbon, Los Angeles, Luxembourg, Lyon, Madrid, Mahé Island, Málaga, Manchester, Marseille, Mexico City, Miami, Milan–Linate, Milan–Malpensa, Montréal–Trudeau, Moscow–Domodedovo, Moscow–Sheremetyevo, Mumbai, Munich, Nairobi–Jomo Kenyatta, Nashville, Nassau, New Orleans, New York–JFK, Newark, Newcastle upon Tyne, Nice, Osaka–Kansai (resumes 1 April 2019),[74] Oslo–Gardermoen, Paris–Charles de Gaulle, Philadelphia, Phoenix–Sky Harbor, Pisa, Pittsburgh (begins 2 April 2019),[75] Prague, Reykjavík–Keflavík, Rio de Janeiro–Galeão, Riyadh, Rome–Fiumicino, Saint Petersburg, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose (CA), Santiago de Chile, São Paulo–Guarulhos, Seattle/Tacoma, Seoul–Incheon, Shanghai–Pudong, Singapore, Sofia, Stockholm–Arlanda, Stuttgart, Sydney, Tallinn (ends 29 March 2019),[76] Tel Aviv–Ben Gurion, Tenerife-South, Tokyo–Haneda, Tokyo–Narita, Toronto–Pearson, Toulouse, Valencia (begins 31 March 2019),[77] Vancouver, Venice, Vienna, Warsaw–Chopin, Washington–Dulles, Zagreb, Zürich
Seasonal: Bastia (begins 25 May 2019),[78] Brindisi, Calgary, Chania, Charleston (begins 4 April 2019),[79] Corfu, Faro, Figari, Grenoble, Ibiza, Kalamata, Kefalonia, Ljubljana (begins 15 July 2019),[80] Marrakesh, Montpellier (resumes 11 July 2019),[81] Muscat, Mykonos, Nantes, Olbia, Palermo, Palma de Mallorca, Preveza/Lefkada (begins 26 May 2019),[78] Pula, Salzburg, Santorini, Split, Zakynthos
Brussels AirlinesBrussels
Bulgaria AirSofia
Cathay PacificHong Kong
China Eastern AirlinesShanghai–Pudong
China Southern Airlines[82]Guangzhou, Sanya, Wuhan
Croatia AirlinesZagreb
Seasonal: Split
Delta Air Lines[83]Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York–JFK
Seasonal: Portland (OR), Salt Lake City
Seasonal: Luxor
El AlTel Aviv–Ben Gurion
Ethiopian AirlinesAddis Ababa
Etihad AirwaysAbu Dhabi
EurowingsBerlin-Tegel, Cologne/Bonn, Düsseldorf, Hamburg, Stuttgart
EVA AirBangkok–Suvarnabhumi, Taipei–Taoyuan
FlybeAberdeen, Edinburgh, Newquay (begins 31 March 2019)[84]
Garuda IndonesiaJakarta-Soekarno-Hatta
Gulf AirBahrain
Hainan AirlinesChangsha
Iran AirTehran–Imam Khomeini
Japan AirlinesTokyo–Haneda
Jet AirwaysDelhi, Mumbai
Kenya AirwaysNairobi–Kenyatta
Korean AirSeoul–Incheon
Kuwait AirwaysKuwait City
LATAM BrasilSão Paulo–Guarulhos
LOT Polish AirlinesWarsaw–Chopin
Lufthansa[86]Frankfurt, Munich
Malaysia AirlinesKuala Lumpur–International
Middle East AirlinesBeirut
Oman AirMuscat
Pakistan International AirlinesIslamabad, Karachi, Lahore
Philippine AirlinesManila
Qantas[87]Melbourne, Perth, Singapore, Sydney
Qatar AirwaysDoha
Royal Air MarocCasablanca, Rabat
Royal Brunei AirlinesBandar Seri Begawan
Royal JordanianAmman–Queen Alia
SaudiaJeddah, Riyadh
Seasonal: Medina
Scandinavian AirlinesCopenhagen, Oslo–Gardermoen, Stavanger, Stockholm–Arlanda
Shenzhen AirlinesShenzhen
Singapore AirlinesSingapore
South African AirwaysJohannesburg–OR Tambo
SriLankan AirlinesColombo
Swiss International Air LinesGeneva, Zürich
Seasonal: Sion
TAP Air PortugalLisbon
Thai AirwaysBangkok–Suvarnabhumi
Tianjin AirlinesChongqing, Tianjin, Xi'an
Turkish Airlinesİstanbul–Atatürk (ends 31 December 2018),[88] Istanbul–Havalimanı (begins 1 January 2019)[88]
Turkmenistan AirlinesAshgabat
United Airlines[89]Chicago–O'Hare, Houston–Intercontinental, Los Angeles, Newark, San Francisco, Washington–Dulles
Seasonal: Denver
Uzbekistan AirwaysTashkent
Vietnam AirlinesHanoi, Ho Chi Minh City
Virgin Atlantic[90]Atlanta, Boston, Delhi, Dubai–International (ends 31 March 2019),[91] Hong Kong, Johannesburg–OR Tambo, Lagos, Las Vegas (begins 31 March 2019),[92] Los Angeles, Miami, New York–JFK, Newark, San Francisco, Seattle/Tacoma, Shanghai–Pudong, Washington–Dulles
Seasonal: Barbados
VuelingA Coruña, Barcelona


AirBridgeCargo AirlinesLeipzig/Halle, Moscow–Sheremetyevo
Cathay Pacific CargoDelhi, Hong Kong, Milan–Malpensa, Mumbai, Paris–Charles de Gaulle
DHL AviationAmsterdam, Brussels, East Midlands, Frankfurt, Leipzig/Halle, Luton, Madrid–Barajas, Paris–Charles de Gaulle
Emirates SkyCargoDubai–Al Maktoum
Ethiopian Airlines CargoAddis Ababa, Lagos
Korean Air CargoParis–Charles de Gaulle, Seoul–Incheon
Qatar Airways CargoBasel, Doha
Royal Air Maroc CargoCasablanca
Royal Jordanian CargoAmman–Queen Alia
Singapore Airlines CargoAmsterdam, Sharjah, Singapore

Traffic and statistics[edit]

British Airways Boeing 747-400 in Oneworld livery at Heathrow Airport


Development of passenger numbers, aircraft movements and air freight between 1986 and 2014

When ranked by passenger traffic, Heathrow is the sixth busiest internationally, behind Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Beijing Capital International Airport, Dubai International Airport, Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, and Tokyo Haneda Airport, for the 12 months ending December 2015.[93]

In 2015, Heathrow was the busiest airport in Europe in total passenger traffic, with 14% more passengers than Paris–Charles de Gaulle Airport[94] and 22% more than Istanbul Atatürk Airport.[95] Heathrow was the fourth busiest European airport by cargo traffic in 2013, after Frankfurt Airport, Paris Charles de Gaulle and Amsterdam Airport Schiphol.[96]

Annual traffic statistics[edit]

Traffic statistics at Heathrow[1]
Year Passengers
% Change
% Change
% Change
1986 31,675,779 Steady 537,131 Steady 315,753 Steady
1987 35,079,755 Increase10.7 574,116 Increase6.9 329,977 Increase 4.3
1988 37,840,503 Increase7.9 642,147 Increase11.8 351,592 Increase 6.1
1989 39,881,922 Increase5.4 686,170 Increase6.9 368,429 Increase 4.6
1990 42,950,512 Increase7.7 695,347 Increase1.3 390,372 Increase 5.6
1991 40,494,575 Decrease5.7 654,625 Decrease5.9 381,724 Decrease 2.3
1992 45,242,591 Increase11.7 754,770 Increase15.3 406,481 Increase 6.1
1993 47,899,081 Increase5.9 846,486 Increase12.2 411,173 Increase 1.1
1994 51,713,366 Increase8.0 962,738 Increase13.7 424,557 Increase 3.2
1995 54,461,597 Increase5.3 1,031,639 Increase7.2 434,525 Increase 2.3
1996 56,049,706 Increase2.9 1,040,486 Increase0.9 440,343 Increase 1.3
1997 58,185,398 Increase3.8 1,156,104 Increase11.1 440,631 Increase 0.1
1998 60,683,988 Increase4.3 1,208,893 Increase4.6 451,382 Increase 2.4
1999 62,268,292 Increase2.6 1,265,495 Increase4.7 458,300 Increase 1.5
2000 64,618,254 Increase3.8 1,306,905 Increase3.3 466,799 Increase 1.8
2001 60,764,924 Decrease6.0 1,180,306 Decrease9.6 463,567 Decrease 0.7
2002 63,362,097 Increase4.3 1,234,940 Increase4.6 466,545 Increase 0.6
2003 63,495,367 Increase0.2 1,223,439 Decrease0.9 463,650 Decrease 0.6
2004 67,342,743 Increase6.1 1,325,173 Increase8.3 476,001 Increase 2.6
2005 67,913,153 Increase0.8 1,305,686 Decrease1.5 477,887 Increase 0.4
2006 67,527,923 Decrease0.6 1,264,129 Decrease3.2 477,048 Decrease 0.2
2007 68,066,028 Increase0.8 1,310,987 Increase3.7 481,476 Increase 0.9
2008 67,054,745 Decrease1.5 1,397,054 Increase6.6 478,693 Decrease 0.6
2009 66,036,957 Decrease1.5 1,277,650 Decrease8.5 466,393 Decrease 2.6
2010 65,881,660 Decrease0.2 1,472,988 Increase15.3 454,823 Decrease 2.5
2011 69,433,230 Increase5.4 1,484,351 Increase0.8 480,906 Increase 5.4
2012 70,037,417 Increase0.9 1,464,390 Decrease1.3 475,176 Decrease 1.2
2013 72,367,054 Increase3.3 1,422,939 Decrease2.8 471,936 Decrease 0.7
2014 73,405,330 Increase1.4 1,498,906 Increase5.3 472,802 Increase 0.2
2015 74,985,748 Increase2.2 1,496,551 Decrease0.2 474,087 Increase 2.7
2016 75,711,130 Increase1.0 1,541,029 Increase3.0 474,963 Increase 0.2
2017 78,047,278 Increase3.1 1,698,455 Increase9.3 476,186 Increase 0.6

Busiest routes[edit]

Heathrow Airport processed 78,047,278 passengers in 2017.[1] New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport was the most popular route with 2,945,744 passengers.[97] The table below shows the 40 busiest international routes at the airport in 2017.

Busiest international routes to and from Heathrow (2017)[97]
Rank Airport Total
2016 / 17
1 United States New York–JFK 2,945,744 Increase 0.5%
2 United Arab Emirates Dubai–International 2,873,011 Increase 9.2%
3 Republic of Ireland Dublin 1,803,497 Increase 7.7%
4 Netherlands Amsterdam 1,689,924 Increase 6.5%
5 United States Los Angeles 1,600,587 Increase 8.9%
6 Hong Kong Hong Kong 1,588,805 Increase 3.2%
7 Germany Frankfurt 1,501,134 Increase 2.2%
8 Spain Madrid 1,382,478 Increase 5.4%
9 Qatar Doha 1,287,225 Increase 10.8%
10 Singapore Singapore 1,234,806 Increase 12.6%
11 France Paris–Charles de Gaulle 1,207,929 Increase 4.2%
12 Germany Munich 1,190,441 Decrease 2.7%
13 Switzerland Zürich 1,139,638 Increase 3.4%
14 United States Chicago–O'Hare 1,062,328 Decrease 1.4%
15 Switzerland Geneva 1,056,478 Increase 3.0%
16 Canada Toronto–Pearson 1,047,947 Decrease 2.8%
17 India New Delhi 1,023,509 Decrease 2.8%
18 Turkey Istanbul–Atatürk 1,021,532 Increase 2.8%
19 United States Newark 1,020,678 Increase 5.4%
20 Sweden Stockholm–Arlanda 1,013,192 Increase 2.7%
21 United States San Francisco 1,009,584 Decrease 2.9%
22 United Arab Emirates Abu Dhabi 1,004,473 Increase 13.2%
23 United States Miami 985,148 Decrease 2.9%
24 Denmark Copenhagen 982,928 Increase 4.9%
25 Italy Rome–Fiumicino 976,106 Decrease 1.7%
26 India Mumbai 963,977 Increase 6.7%
27 South Africa Johannesburg–Tambo 954,716 Decrease 3.1%
28 Portugal Lisbon 865,043 Increase 7.4%
29 Thailand Bangkok–Suvarnabhumi 850,446 Increase 18.9%
30 United States Washington–Dulles 845,634 Decrease 1.4%
31 United States Boston 814,124 Increase 2.3%
32 Austria Vienna 807,858 Increase 2.0%
33 Germany Berlin–Tegel 779,203 Decrease 4.2%
34 Greece Athens 761,330 Increase 5.3%
35 Germany Düsseldorf 741,486 Increase 8.3%
36 Finland Helsinki 714,261 Increase 7.2%
37 Malaysia Kuala Lumpur 692,039 Increase 8.6%
38 Spain Barcelona 683,777 Decrease 3.8%
39 Norway Oslo–Gardermoen 679,409 Increase 1.3%
40 United States Dallas/Fort Worth 677,113 Increase 4.7%

Busiest domestic routes to and from Heathrow (2017)[98]
Rank Airport Total
2016 / 17
1 Edinburgh 1,179,758 Increase 12%
2 Glasgow 909,117 Increase 2%
3 Belfast-City 691,552 Decrease 0.3%
4 Manchester 665,203 Decrease 4%
5 Aberdeen 622,034 Increase 5%
6 Newcastle 491,597 Decrease 2%
7 Leeds Bradford 162,042 Increase 1%
8 Inverness 79,065 Increase 37%

Other facilities[edit]

The Compass Centre, the head office of Heathrow Airport Holdings

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.[99] The World Business Centre Heathrow consists of three buildings. 1 World Business Centre houses offices of Heathrow Airport Holdings, Heathrow Airport itself, and Scandinavian Airlines.[100] Previously International Airlines Group had its head office in 2 World Business Centre.[101][102]

At one time the British Airways head office was located within Heathrow Airport at Speedbird House[103] before the completion of Waterside, the current BA head office in Harmondsworth, in June 1998.[104]

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 "The Strip" by locals, because of its continuous line of airport hotels.


Public transport[edit]

Heathrow Airport tube and rail stations


Bus and coach[edit]

Many buses and coaches operate from the large Heathrow Central bus station serving Terminals 2 and 3, and also from bus stations at Terminals 4 and 5.

Inter-terminal transport[edit]

All terminals lie within the Heathrow Free Travel Zone with free travel between the terminals. Terminals 2 and 3 are within walking distance of each other. Transfers from Terminals 2 and 3 to Terminal 4 and 5 are provided by Heathrow Express trains.[107] Transfer between Terminals 4 and 5 is provided by London Buses routes 482 and 490.[108]

Transit passengers remaining airside are provided with free dedicated transfer buses between terminals.

ULTra Personal Rapid Transport opened in April 2011 to shuttle passengers between Terminal 5 and the business car park at a speed of up to 40 km/h (25 mph). There are 21 small transportation pods that can each carry up to four adults, two children, and their luggage. The pods are battery-powered and run on a four-kilometre track. The capsules run on demand. The provider claims a 95% availability rate and no accidents so far.[109] 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.[110]

Hotel access[edit]

The Hotel Hoppa bus network connects all terminals to major hotels in the area.[111]


Taxis are available at all terminals.[112]


Entrance at the southern end of the M4 Motorway spur, showing a scale model of Concorde, replaced since 2008 by the Emirates A380 scale model.[113]

Heathrow is accessible via the nearby M4 motorway or A4 road (Terminals 2–3), 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-[114] and long-stay[115] multi-storey car parks. All the Heathrow forecourts are drop-off only.[116] 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 2–3. 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.[117] 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. It is worth noting travelers are not allowed to cycle through the main tunnel to access Terminals 2 and 3 (Terminal 1 closed in 2015).[118]

Incidents and accidents[edit]

  • On 3 March 1948, Sabena Douglas DC3 OO-AWH crashed in fog. Three crew and 19 of the 22 passengers on board died.[119]
  • 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.[120]
  • 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.[121]
  • 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.[122]
  • 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.[123]
  • 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.[124]
  • 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 on board died.[125][126]
  • 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 flight attendant – died, while 122 survived. The flight attendant, Barbara Harrison, who helped with the evacuation, was posthumously awarded the George Cross.[127]
  • 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,[128] 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.[129]
  • 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.[130]
British Airways Flight 38 which crash landed just short of the runway on 17 January 2008
  • 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.[131][132]
  • 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.[133]
  • 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 18 minor injuries. The aircraft was later found to have suffered loss of thrust caused by fuel icing.[134]

Terrorism and security incidents[edit]

  • On 8 June 1968, James Earl Ray, the man convicted of 4 April 1968 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.[135]
  • On 6 September 1970, El Al Flight 219 experienced an attempted hijack by two PFLP members. One hijacker was killed and the other was subdued as the plane made an emergency landing at Heathrow Airport.
  • On 19 May 1974, the IRA planted a series of bombs in the Terminal 1 car park. Two people were injured by the explosions.[136]
  • 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.[137]
  • 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.[138]
  • On 21 December 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 from Heathrow to New York JFK was blown up over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 259 on board and 11 other people on the ground. This also still remains the deadliest attack on a US aircraft.[139]
  • 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.[140]
  • In March 2002, thieves stole US$3 million that had arrived on a South African Airways flight.[141]
  • 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.[142]
  • 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.[143]
  • 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 on board of liquid medications and baby milk, if they were tasted first by passengers at the security checkpoint.[144]
  • 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 "Climate Emergency – No Third Runway" banner over the aircraft's tailfin. By 11:00 GMT four arrests had been made.[145]
  • 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.[146]
  • 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.[147][148]

Other incidents[edit]

  • 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.[149]
  • On 18 December 2010, 'heavy' (9 cm, according to the Heathrow Winter Resilience Enquiry)[150] 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.[151] 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.[152]
  • On 12 July 2013, the ELT on an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner parked at Heathrow airport caught fire due to a short circuit.[153] There were no passengers aboard and no injuries.[154][155]
  • On 14 February 2018, 2 airside vehicles, a BA engineering vehicle and a Heathrow airside operation vehicle, crashed on a taxiway near Terminal 5. The driver of the BA vehicle died from cardiac arrest and the other driver sustained a broken shoulder. The airport remained opened, although 20+ flights were delayed. This incident was referred to the health and safety executive and no arrests were made by the Metropolitan Police.[156]

Future expansion and plans[edit]

Runway and terminal expansion[edit]

British Airways aircraft queuing for take-off

In January 2009, the Transport Secretary at the time, Geoff Hoon announced that the British government supported the expansion of Heathrow by building a third 2,200-metre (7,200 ft) runway and a sixth terminal building.[157] This decision followed the 2003 white paper on the future of air transport in the UK,[158] and a public consultation in November 2007.[159] 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.[160]

Prior to the 2010 general election, the Conservative and Liberal Democrat 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, then Boris Johnson, took the position that London needs more airport capacity, favouring the construction of an entirely new airport in the Thames Estuary rather than expanding Heathrow.[161] After the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition took power, it was announced that the third runway expansion was cancelled.[162] Two years later, leading Conservatives were reported to have changed their minds on the subject.[163]

Another proposal for expanding Heathrow's capacity was 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.[164][165]

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. The Airports Commission was chaired by Sir Howard Davies who, at the time of his appointment was in the employ of GIC Private Limited (formerly known as Government Investment Corporation of Singapore) and a member of its International Advisory Board. GIC Private Limited was then (2012), as it remains today, one of Heathrow's principal owners. Sir Howard Davies resigned these positions upon confirmation of his appointment to lead the Airports Commission, although it has been observed that he failed to identify these interests when invited to complete the Airports Commission's register of interests. Each of the three proposals that were to be considered by Sir Howard Davies's commission involved the construction of a third runway, either to the north, northwest or southwest of the airport.[166]

The commission released its interim report in December 2013, shortlisting three options: the north-west third runway option at Heathrow, extending an existing runway at Heathrow, and a second runway at Gatwick Airport. After this report was published, the government confirmed that no options had been ruled out for airport expansion in the South-east and that a new runway would not be built at Heathrow before 2015.[167] The full report was published on 1 July 2015, and backed a third, north-west, runway at Heathrow.[168] 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."[169] On 25 October 2016, the government confirmed that Heathrow would be allowed to build a third runway; however, a final decision would not be taken until winter of 2017/18, after consultations and government votes. The earliest opening year would be 2025. On 5 June 2018 Cabinet approved the third runway, with a full vote planned for Parliament.[170] On 25 June 2018, the House of Commons voted 415-119 in favor of the Third Runway.[171] The bill received support from most MPs in the Conservative and Labour Parties.[172] A judicial review against the decision is being launched by four London local authorities affected by the expansion—Wandsworth, Richmond, Hillingdon and Hammersmith and Fulham—in partnership with Greenpeace and London mayor Sadiq Khan.[173] Khan previously stated he would take legal action if it were passed by Parliament.[174]

New transport proposals[edit]

One of the transport projects being considered is the Western Rail Approach to Heathrow

Currently, all rail connections with Heathrow airport run along an east-west alignment to and from central London, and a number of schemes have been proposed over the years to develop new rail transport links with other parts of London and with stations outside the city.[175] This mainline rail service is due to be extended to central London and Essex when the Elizabeth line, currently under construction, opens in 2019.[176]

A 2009 proposal to create a southern link with London Waterloo via the Waterloo–Reading line was abandoned in 2011 due to lack of funding and difficulties with a high number of level crossings on the route into London,[177][178] and a plan to link Heathrow to the planned High Speed 2 (HS2) railway line (with a new station, Heathrow Hub) was also dropped from the HS2 plans in March 2015.[179][180][181]

Among other schemes that have been considered is a rapid transport link between Heathrow and Gatwick Airports, known as Heathwick, which would allow the airports to operate jointly as an airline hub;[182][183] In 2018, the Department for Transport began to invite proposals for privately funded rail links to Heathrow Airport.[184] Projects being considered under this initiative include:

Heathrow City[edit]

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.[188][189][190][191] Some of the plans seem to show terminal 5, or part of it, kept as a shopping centre.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Number of passengers including domestic, international and transit



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External links[edit]