28 APRIL 2014


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Article from BTNews 28 APRIL 2014

ON TOUR – The Queen’s Terminal

Slipstream by Richard Wilson RASlipstream by Richard Wilson RAThe new T2 Queen’s Terminal at Heathrow is rapidly approaching its opening date, set for 2 June. On that Monday United Airlines will make the inaugural arrival, the UA958 05:55 from Chicago and the first departure to New York Newark, the UA923 at 08:40.

Whilst T2 will be the home of Star Alliance (plus Aer Lingus, Germanwings and Little Red) only United will move in straight away.  By the start of the winter season all 23 Heathrow Star Alliance carriers would have arrived, from T1, T3 and T4.  According to Star Alliance Chief Executive Mark Schwab this will reduce connecting time to just 60 minutes, with a future target of 45 minutes.  About 40% of the 10m passengers that Star currently moves through Heathrow are in airline terms ‘interlining’ or in normal parlance, changing carriers.  BA has similar figures for T5, but for Skyteam T4 is essentially point to point traffic.

The opening of the Queen’s Terminal is a major landmark in the 21st century development of Heathrow Airport, but only a stepping stone as far as its international owners are concerned.  The Spanish infrastructure conglomerate Ferrovial still holds 25% but at one time held over half the shares.  Qatari national interests have a 20% interest, followed by Quebec Deposit and Investment Fund with 13.29%, Government of Singapore Investment Corporation 11.88%, Alinda Capital Partners (Connecticut USA) 11.18%, China Investment Corporation 10% and Universities Superannuation Scheme 8.65%.  Chairman is British businessman Sir Nigel Rudd.

John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow Development Director, briefs the mediaJohn Holland-Kaye, Heathrow Development Director, briefs the mediaFor the future Terminal 1 will disappear in its entirety and later Terminal 3, becoming part of an enlarged T2 capable of handling 45m passengers.  The whole project, a three-terminal airport including an integrated Crossrail and HS2 connection, will not be complete until 2030.

Without the earmarked extension on to the T1 site the T2 capacity is about 20m.  T1’s domestic gates, reached via a bridge over the central area access road, will be demolished once its current tenants, Aer Lingus and Little Red, move out freeing up space on the northern taxiway.  At present the very large aircraft such as the A380, require to taxi to the south of the central area wasting both fuel and time. 

By the time the terminal opens for service, T2 will have undergone 182 trials and been tested by 14,000 people.  Some have involved more than 3,200 ‘travellers’, with the whole process designed to test the passenger journey as comprehensively as possible. 

Set for Aer Lingus and Virgin RedSet for Aer Lingus and Virgin RedA repeat of the T5 fiasco is not foreseen.

Access from the Central Area to T2 could not be easier and is very well signposted.  In fact it is less of a walk from the Underground than from the Heathrow Express.  Fast lifts take you up to the departure area.  Here you will be joined by passengers coming by road, who arrive at the same level, in fact the top floor of a multi-floor car park.

As you enter into the building the first thing you see is Slipstream by Richard Wilson RA, commissioned by Heathrow.  Even if T2 only moves 14m passengers in its first year the airport claims it will still be Britain’s most viewed piece of art, beating Angel of the North at Gateshead.  Weighing 77 tonnes and measuring 78 metres, the sculpture’s twisting aluminium form is inspired by the world of aviation and captures the imagined flight path of a small aerobatic aircraft.  For Wilson, the work is a response to the artistic challenge of capturing movement and a metaphor for travel; it aims to capture velocity, acceleration and deceleration in its twists and turns.

At this point you are faced with 83 self-service kiosks, 60 fast bag drops plus 56 traditional check-in desks for Premier class travellers, those who can’t handle the IT world, and also long haul clients who need to be handled differently from those on short flights.  Up to 3,000 passengers per hour will pass through 24 security lanes (17 normal, four Fastrack and three for staff and crew).  The security area is as fully automated as possible and seats are available if there has been a shoe check, and for a wait whilst a suspicious item is investigated.

Provided are 52 shops and 17 bars and restaurants, including seven dining outlets with airfield views.  There are no gate lounges and the old BAA yellow signage is for the most part retained and works well.  Initially T2 will serve 12 aircraft gates in the main building.  Executive lounges are provided by Air Canada, Aer Lingus, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, United and with its first appearance at Heathrow, Plaza Premium.  Only the United lounge will be open on day one.

Architect Luis Vidal leads the press gaggleArchitect Luis Vidal leads the press gaggleSpanish architect Luis Vidal won the international design competition for the terminal in 2008.  The spectacular Covered Court provides the home for Slipstream connecting the lifts and the road transport links to the main building.

Speaking to the media in perfect English he explained the concept.

“Terminal 2 was designed to be a destination in itself.  Our objective was to attract passengers to arrive earlier than their departure time in order to enjoy the welcoming atmosphere and experience the wide range of amenities, services and retail Terminal 2 has to offer.” 

He claims, not without justification, that T2 is the first fourth generation terminal.  Passenger experience and comfort have been placed at the centre of the design process which emphasises natural lighting and an easy flow. 

Passing through Security your first view of the shops is from the gallery.  If you want to give them a miss go straight to the gate.


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