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A 100% purely speculative article about what may happen at Heathrow Terminal 5 soon ….

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You might not notice it, but we do have an editorial framework at HfP.  Part of this is that we don’t write about things which are only due to happen in 2-3+ years, because it isn’t ‘news you can use’.

That is why you very rarely see articles from us saying “xxxxx has agreed to open a hotel in yyyyy in 2023”.  Half of the hotels mentioned in these press releases never open anyway.

There have been a few announcement recently, however, which – whilst not necessarily important in themselves – point to a fundamental restructuring of how Heathrow Terminal 5 operates.  As it’s the weekend, I thought I would break our rule on speculation and see if I could pull the threads together.

It is totally possible that what I am about to sketch out does not happen, but you can create a story to fit the evidence so far.

Heathrow Terminal 5

Here are a few random statements of fact (well, No 5 is a rumour but it is a fact that there are rumours):

The recent news release on the BA lounge refurbishments says “We’ll also be refreshing a number of lounges at Heathrow Terminal 5 this year”.  A ‘refresh’ means minimal expenditure, yet we know a lot of major work is being planned and indeed is required.

At New York JFK, British Airways is leaving Terminal 7 in 2022 to move into Terminal 8, which it will share with American Airlines

American Airlines has postponed plans to create a new Flagship lounge at Heathrow Terminal 3, even though they have opened in less important airports and even though a date had previously been announced

US Customs & Immigration pre-clearance continues to expand.  Dublin, Shannon and Abu Dhabi already have it outside of North America / Caribbean and Sweden has a deal agreed.  The CBP website states “Building upon the success of existing Preclearance operations, CBP intends to expand the program to new locations.”  Heathrow is already on a list of sites published in 2015 which the US considers technically suitable.

There are strong rumours from various BA sources of a British Airways lounge being built at Heathrow Terminal 5C.  Without other changes, it seems an odd use of money given more pressing lounge projects.

Terminal 5C was built with provision for a mezzanine lounge like the one in 5B

Terminal 5A was built with provision for an additional BA lounge in the mezzanine area by Galleries South

Terminal 5C was originally meant to be the same length as 5B but was shortened post the 2008 financial crisis to save money once BA’s growth projections were cut

Can you pull all of these strands together?  I think you can.

If you take all of these ideas and try to fit them into a single narrative, this is what you would get:

American Airlines will leave Heathrow Terminal 3 and move into Heathrow Terminal 5

This would be timed to coincide with British Airways moving out of New York JFK Terminal 7 and co-locating with American in Terminal 8 in 2022

BA and AA flights to the United States would exclusively use Heathrow Terminal 5C 

Whilst potentially too small at present for all US flights, 5C would be easy to extend to its original planned dimensions

A US pre-clearance facility would be built in Terminal 5C

A British Airways lounge complex, to be jointly shared with American, would be built in 5C on a mezzanine

British Airways would move an equivalent number of services out of Terminal 5 and into Terminal 3.  Historically these have been routes with few connecting passengers.

If the 5C lounge complex is built first, it would create additional capacity to allow British Airways to close each of the existing Heathrow lounges, sequentially, for 5-6 months which is how long a full refurbishment would take.  During the closures, anyone flying from 5B or 5C could be blocked from using the remaining 5A lounge.

Alternatively, BA can extend into the ‘reserved’ lounge space in 5A and then have the capacity to close the existing lounges for 6 months

Is any of this actually going to happen?  I don’t know.  There is enough noise going on, however, to suggest that something close to this will happen.  It is, technically, all possible.

Comments (113)

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  • riku2 says:

    >>During the closures, anyone flying from 5B or 5C could be blocked from using the remaining 5A lounge<B->C thanks to their inability to split the train into two sections for arriving and departing passengers and judging by the lack of passengers in the walkway at -4 almost everyone is using the train.

  • Shoestring says:

    [British Airways would move an equivalent number of services out of Terminal 5 and into Terminal 3]

    Welcome to my terminal 🙂 – don’t worry, folks, if this means you – T3 is a very pleasant, easy, efficient, compact terminal. About the worst you can say about it is that its relative smallness means there isn’t quite the variety of eateries you can get elsewhere – in particular, no McD’s/ KFC/ BK to keep the kids happy if you’re not going to a lounge. The pub gets crowded & it’s not a Wetherspoons.

    • guesswho2000 says:

      CX and QF lounges at T3 already mean this would be welcome from my point of view!

    • Secret Squirrel says:

      Cheers SS for tip on Pad last night. Won £24. 😆

    • Alan says:

      I love the lounges at T3, just wish the transfer experience from domestic to international was as nice as at T5!

    • Riccatti says:

      — T3 is a very pleasant, easy, efficient, compact terminal.

      Don’t worry, Shoestring, they will fix it by remodelling.

      Which they’ll start after moving US flights to T5C (which is just as close to T3 as it is to T5) and hordes of passengers be stampeding from T5 to T5C, overloading the one-directional shuttle train.

  • Lochlann says:

    My understanding had been that CBP wouldn’t be airline exclusive, imagine the fuss Delta, United and Virgin wild kick-up. Would also be interesting to see how the flight schedules work, ie would BA really be able to dedicate all of 5C to US flights only – feels like it would be a poor use of gates at certain times of the day.
    (Despite the above I liked the piece, and think co-location and 5C lounge will happen)

    • Andrew says:

      The essential criteria would be departing flights to use 5C – they could arrive at any international gates, so that would be a way to deal with the morning rush (and the fact that an aircraft arrives from JFK and then becomes a departing flight to Mumbai for example).

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Why does pre clearance have to be limited to just one terminal? Couldn’t T2 or T3 be set up aswell? It’s about an agreement at a country level and then having the staff/area. T5 will eventually become the Oneworld terminal I think with the planned T5x.

      • memesweeper says:

        You need a dedicated and segregated departures area. Really hard to do in T3.

  • Andrew says:

    But Virgin/Delta would demand a pre-clearance facility at T3, so AA and BA USA flights wouldn’t need to move. T2 would also need pre-clearance for United.

    • Lady London says:

      T2 might be left as short haul.
      Are they actually rebuilding T1?

      • Rob says:

        At some point T2 extends to cover what was T1. T2 was designed with this in mind.

        • Willie says:

          Will T3 then become T2, T4 become T3 and T5 renamed T4 ?

          • ChrisC says:

            No

            They didn’t rename the terminals at JFK when various ones were demolished for example/

            Just too confusing plus think of all the signs and things that would be changed and the cost of that.

        • Doug M says:

          I think that T2 baggage is still handled in part of T1, that needs to be resolved first.

  • BJ says:

    Even if true this is not going to happen by 2022. This is the UK, it takes them two months just to set up cones for roadworks.

    Edinburgh will be the first British airport with US Preclearance.

  • Nick Burch says:

    Doesn’t pre-clearance mess with MCT meaning that lots of connecting flight schedules to the USA no longer work, as passengers then need a longer connection?

    Dublin has a bunch of gates that can be normal or pre clearance to cope with US flights all going together then none more. Given time bunching would be hard for T5C to work for much of the day unless they also made gates for both

    • John says:

      But it allows better connections when arriving.

      • ChrisC says:

        Ony if the airlines adjust the MCT when they sell tickets

        BA still won’t sell an onward connection on AA that’s lower than the current 2 hours if you arrive off the pre cleared BA 1 for example.

  • David S says:

    There are going to be a lot of First class passengers who will be very annoyed if they are flying from 5C (and not allowed to use any 5A lounges during the refurbishment) and not be allowed to use the Concorde room!!!! Can’t see that strategy working and can’t see BA open another Concorde room in 5C either.

    • Nick Burch says:

      Arrivals lounge has a hidden CCR area, Singapore has a CCR area, don’t see why T5C couldn’t follow the same model?

  • Chabuddy geezy says:

    There is an old flyertalk thread that thoroughly debunks the idea of preclearance at T5. It would be hugely expensive to build a sterile area big enough for preclearance passengers, and generally a really inefficient use of gates considering how busy the airport already is.

    https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/british-airways-executive-club/1852462-looks-like-t5-might-get-pre-clearance-quicker-than-we-thought.html

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