Heathrow‘s long-anticipated Terminal 5 has opened to passengers today, welcoming a first arrival flight from Hong Kong on time in the early hours, with some 380 flights set to be processed through the new terminal on its opening day.
Costing £4.3 billion, the new home of British Airways at Heathrow has great expectations to live up to, but deadlines have been met and transport links updated in time for the opening.
Customers have direct underground access to the new terminal thanks to a Piccadilly Line extension that involved 1.7km of new tunnels, while the Heathrow Express to Paddington has also been extended.
It is not only landing and departure times against which the new terminal will be judged, with high hopes placed in state-of-the-art baggage handling systems that Heathrow hopes will help it to shake off a reputation for inefficient luggage operations and customer care.
The new baggage reclaim facilities contain 18km of belts which in trials have shown themselves capable of transporting 12,000 bags per hour – and the hub now claims that people will find bags waiting for them when they emerge from passport control.
Mark Bullock, managing director of Heathrow operator BAA, said: "This is an incredibly exciting day for us and one which marks a turning point for Heathrow."
The airport currently processes some 67.3 million passengers per year – and hopes that the new terminal will allow it to handle higher numbers but with lower delays.