Heathrow Airport (IATA: LHR, ICAO: EGLL) is a major international airport in west London, England, United Kingdom. Heathrow is the busiest airport in the United Kingdom, as well as the busiest airport in Europe by passenger traffic, and sixth busiest airport in the world by total passenger traffic. In 2015, it handled a record 75 million passengers, a 2.2 percent increase from 2014. 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 12.27 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 that includes Ferrovial Group (25.00%), Qatar Holding LLC (20.00%), Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (12.62%), Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (11.20%), Alinda Capital Partners (11.18%), China Investment Corporation (10.00%) and Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) (10.00%) . 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. 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.
A Qantas Boeing 747-400 on approach to London Heathrow 27L runway. 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 Slough 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.
Central waiting area in Terminal 5 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 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. Concorde G-BOAB in storage at Heathrow 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).
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. The masterplan for the airport was designed by Sir Frederick Gibberd, who designed the original terminals and central area buildings, including the original control tower and multi-faith chapel of St George’s.
The former Terminal 1, which closed in June 2015, originally 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 (European) 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. 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 will be retained for continued use by that 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.
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, 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 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 Etihad Airways, Malaysia Airlines and Qatar Airways operating regular A380 flights.
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, 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 the spring of 2011. New branches of both the Heathrow Express and the Underground’s Piccadilly line serve a new shared Heathrow Terminal 5 station.