Fascinating article on the forgotten West London Air Terminal

A HFP reader sent me a link yesterday to a truly fascinating article on the West London Air Terminal.

If you have ever driven from London to Heathrow, you will have passed a huge Sainsburys supermarket on your right, close to the large Marriott hotel on your left.  There is a large block of flats built over it and an odd ramp leading up to them.

This was, I was surprised to learn, the West London Air Terminal.

west-london-air-terminal

To quote:

In the period after the war Heathrow was in the ascendant so the search was on for a site in West London. The airport authorities settled on an area in Kensington already occupied by another form of transport: the Cromwell Curve where the District and Circle lines came together and tube trains from Gloucester Road, High Street Kensington and Earls Court passed each other. It was decided to build a concrete raft over the train lines and construct the new terminal above them.

west-london-air-terminal-2

and:

The idea …… was that you checked in for your flight here and then you and your luggage were transported to Heathrow in special airline buses. ….  The Cromwell Road location, a short convenient distance up the road from Gloucester Road Station meant that when the time came to fly you could put on your sheepskin coat, walk down some stairs, put your case in the coach and be on your way.

It is a fantastic article with lots of great period photographs.  When you get a few minutes today I strongly recommend reading the full piece here.

This is what the building looks like today.  It is hard to imagine it was once an airport terminal.

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Comments

  1. Remember checking in there with my parents in the 70s.

    Don’t remember the BEA buses at Gloucester Road Air Terminal, but as a child in Liverpool there were also special airport buses running to Speke. The upstairs area at the back was because downstairs at the back was the luggage compartment. I think these may have been the same design as the BEA buses.

    The Airlines used to have a high profile in Central London. AA also had check in facilities at Victoria on the Gatwick Express platform, and in the 70s all the airlines had ticket offices in Piccadilly and Regent Street. I remember buying my first solo ticket from TWA in Piccadilly.

  2. I was very young when we lived in west London but I remember going to the West London Air Terminal a couple of times to meet Irish relatives who were going back home from there. The buses they used were quite distinctive, grey coloured with a sort of half upper deck arrangement. They were later replaced by Routemasters, I believe, but this was back in the 1950s. I could be wrong but I got the impression you had to travel on a dedicated bus for the particular flight you were on and all the checked-in baggage for that flight travelled on that bus.

  3. I lived over the road from this building for 3 years and never knew it was an air terminal! Used to shop at the sainsburys every week! Shame I ddidn’t realise nectar points expired so I lost them all 🙁

    • Why wouldn’t you just spend them as soon as you get to 500?

      You’re like one of the Imperial students I lived next to in his last year. He ended up with about 20000 nectar points, but never spent any and accidentally packed his card in the boxes he shipped back to Singapore, so nectar was a complete waste of time for him.

      • I was an Imperial student! We are talking over 10 years ago now though, way before I became a points nerd!

  4. London, London, London. I voted for London to leave the UK. It does not belong.

    Balance please.

  5. I believe the BEA terminal on Cromwell Road opened in 1957, and replaced an earlier and short-lived central London terminal at Waterloo, which for a short period had helicopter transfers! More here – http://alondoninheritance.com/london-transport/the-waterloo-air-terminal/

  6. The terminal features in the film BEA “Clear to Land” including footage of the booking call centre with state of the art 1968 computers.

    The whole film is worth a watch

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7RMlluY0sA