Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Airlines Complain at Heathrow Airport Terminal Moves

Major airlines operating from London Heathrow Airport have complained about their treatment by the airport's operator.

Several airlines believe they are going to be placed "at a competitve disadvantage" by the British Airports Authority (BAA), because of forthcoming changes in the way the airport is organised.

From the end of next month British Airways will be centralising most of its Heathrow operations into the new, long-awaited Terminal 5. At the same time, Terminal 2 and The Queen's Building will be closed ahead of demolition to prepare for the new Heathrow East Terminal.

This has led to BAA undertaking a major reconfiguration of where airlines operate from at the airport, based around the alliance each airline belongs to.

As a result, over the next 12 months over half of the airlines operating into Heathrow are having to move their arrival and departure points to different terminals.

This, together with the fact that some operators will be using older facilities than they using at the moment, has angered many airlines.
Airlines Change Terminals at Heathrow

Under the plans, airlines across Heathrow will be changing terminals. Airlines belonging to the Star Alliance (including bmi, Lufhansa and United) will be moving to Terminal 1. Terminal 3 will host the members of the Oneworld alliance (such as American Airlines and Cathay Pacific). Meanwhile, Terminal 4 will be reserved for SkyTeam alliance members (including Air France-KLM) and those airlines not affiliated to an alliance.

Airline executives have not been shy in voicing their feelings over the nature of the changes.

Some believe BAA has given preferential treatment to BA with T5 at the expense of other airlines, and that other carriers at Heathrow will suffer as a result of operating from the older terminals.

A spokesman for bmi said: "We expect the same kind of investment and facilities that BA are enjoying."

Airlines have been further angered by the fact that they are not going to receive financial discounts from BAA to help assist with moving their operations around the airport - while at the same time, British Airways is not being charged a premium by BAA to use the new facilities at T5.

One un-named airline boss commented: "Because it is the UK flag carrier, BA get things handed to it on a plate."
Heathrow East Project Delayed

The airlines' view of Heathrow Airport's operator has not been improved by the news that the Heathrow East project is being delayed.

The new £1.5 billion facility - which in addition to replacing Terminal 2 and The Queen's Building, will also replace Terminal 1 - is, according to press reports, now running between six and 15 months behind schedule, meaning it is not likely to be open in time for the London 2012 Olympic Games. It had been BAA's intention to have Heathrow East operational in time for the Games.

Some airlines have said this delay worsens their position. Those operating from Terminal 1, which will be right next to the construction work, claim that they will effectively operating out of a building site. They say this will do nothing to improve their image with customers, especially when compared to the facilities BA is receiving with T5.

BAA refuted the airlines' claims, saying airlines would benefit from the changes by allowing them to work more closely with their alliance partners.

Source - Airport International's London Reporter

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