Bosses cautious over T2 opening
Heathrow bosses due to open a new £2.5 billion terminal in a few weeks are determined not to repeat the mistakes which led to the catastrophic launch of the west London airport's Terminal 5 (T5) six years ago.
In 2008, Heathrow hailed the new T5 as a wonder of the age and promised a hassle-free opening. But T5's first day was a fiasco, with thousands of bags lost, long queues and flight delays.
On June 4 this year, Heathrow chiefs will open a new Terminal 2 (T2) which will be home to 26 airlines and will eventually cater for as many as 20 million passengers a year.
More details of the opening will be given by Heathrow bosses in London today, but they have already made it clear that a much more cautious approach will be taken compared with the T5 opening disaster.
To start with T2 will open in phases - a plan that should have been employed when T5 began. The more wary approach will mean that T2 will, to start with, only be operating to about 10% of its capacity.
It will not be until late November this year, when Virgin's domestic operation, Virgin Atlantic Little Red, moves in that all the T2 airlines will fly from the new terminal.
Also, Heathrow's bosses have been holding extensive trials of the systems at T2, with everything tested - from individual aspects of terminal operations, such as the check-in process, to large-scale trials that test the complete passenger journey.
The larger trials have involved more than 3,000 people at a time and In total 14,000 people will help T2.
In 2008, many people had foreseen the difficulties that lay ahead and were proved only too right when the opening day led to such chaos.
This time, Heathrow chiefs' concerns are on record. They have said: " Almost every new terminal around the world has experienced difficulties during the first few days after opening, Terminal 5 included.
"However, we've worked hard to learn lessons from our own experience and from others around the world. All of them have been incorporated in our planning for the opening of T2.
"Nevertheless, it will still be a huge challenge and some teething problems are inevitable."
Airlines moving into T2 include Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, Aer Lingus, Air China and US carrier United.
One of the features of the new terminal will be the ability of passengers to take their meal on board from all the T2 restaurants. Travellers are also being promised that there will be a selection of dishes guaranteed to be ready in 15 minutes.