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.

Will American Airlines move into Termnal 5 at Heathrow?

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.

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Comments

  1. Some of this will happen. Some will not. Preclearance is a no, for all the reasons retailed above. Lounges is a yes, a bigger North will be the A Club lounge, leaving South for Gold and F. AA will move in stages. More flights will move FROM T3 than will go over there, thanks to extensions to T5. More remote stands will be used. HAL wants more space in T3 for other airlines from its ‘mixed mode’ plans so is the real driver behind this.

  2. Phillip says:

    I would say that the image in the article might offer the most obvious clues without needing a single word! Part of the proposed Heathrow expansion includes two elements that could be very critical additions to T5 and which could facilitate such a plan. Firstly, the new terminal north of the current north runway which could accommodate BA’s shorthaul/domestic network. Then as T3 gets its long awaited remodel, the proposal is that they will adopt the toast rack structure across the entire airport. So T3 will start seeing satellite terminals. Call it T5D or T3A/B/C (letters used randomly just to paint the picture)… the two terminals can very easily be interconnected via a rail shuttle underground. I would say the use of T5C for pre-clearance could just be the start of a much bigger plan. At some point the plan was to rename terminals as Heathrow East and Heathrow West, but that’s was before the proposed new northern terminal. I think these are all perfectly plausible suggestions… but they will take time. The third runway has a lot to answer for!

  3. OT – > Hilton status app has updated status. Points have gone down by almost 10k. My account has had many stays so don’t understand. Anyone know why this has happened? Also, doesn’t status get updated end of March?

    • Secret Squirrel says:

      My HH status app was updated recently and I’m still gold, dont know if they update again in March.

      • Pangolin says:

        Status resets at the beginning of April. What ever status you had last year will continue through to the end of March.

      • Pangolin says:

        PS Make sure you check the Desktop version of the site. The App has been acting up lately.

    • Status change is still end of March but any rollover nights should now be showing.

      There shouldn’t be any change in points though – worth asking them via DM on Twitter as to what’s happening. There is a bug in the mobile app where it still shows a redemption deduction even if cancelled (with no corresponding positive points entry on cancellation), however the overall total is correct. Website doesn’t show the same deduction!

  4. OT – BA tier point year end.

    My tier point collection ends on 8th March and I have a flight for 8th march which will normally credit on my BAEC account on 10th March. Is this flight counted for status based on date flown or date credited?

    I would rather it be date credited since I want it to count towards the status of next year as I am already Silver.

    • MadMiler says:

      Date flown! Similarity, my year ended January and I have just had a flight credited 10 days after flying and was applied to last collection year.

  5. Interesting article, although I find US entry so fast now with Global Entry I don’t see much benefit in pre-clearance!

    • TGLoyalty says:

      GE is taking months to approve atm.

      Also benefit for all rather than the few? The point of pre clearance was to take the pressure off US airports as you land as a domestic customer. You could also then use airports like LGA which has no customs/border control.

      • Unsavage gerbil says:

        With Global entry you can use the TSA pre line when at airports like LGA , I have used to Charlotte and DTW from there.

        Unfortunately the wait time for GE is now around 6 to 8 months

        The Gerbil

        • TGLoyalty says:

          That’s departures not arrivals? I didn’t think LGA accepted international arrivals (apart from maybe preclearence flights) due to no customers/border service?

    • Preclearance benefits the US, or else they wouldn’t do it.

  6. OT- for. Year or so I’ve had offers from LLoyds Avios Credit card for balance transfer at 4% for no fee and also 0% for 3% fee. Obviously the fee free transfer has been very attractive.

    I’ve just had the fee free offer removed (there goes 100,000s of avios) an was wondering if anyone else was in the same boat?

    I’ve also reviewed my card strategy and have taken a couple of 0% cards from Lloyd and others so this may be connected.

    Any data points greatly appreciated.

    • New Card says:

      0% offer has also gone for me.

    • Calchas says:

      That offer has gone away for me before and come back a few days later. Give it a couple of weeks before you cancel the card.

      The real trick is to find another card that will let you do a fee-free transfer and just circle the money around and around … not so many of those about.

    • AndyGWP says:

      I don’t actually use my Lloyds card since the removal of the voucher, and I’ve never done a balance transfer in my life, but out of curiosity I’ve looked in the app and I’ve currently got:

      £3800 to transfer, at 0% interest p.a. over 12 months with a 3% (so £114) fee

      From Rob’s previous articles, that would get me 0.4 Avios per £1

      So that’s 1520 avios, for £114 which isn’t good value (7.5p per avios??)

      Are my maths bad (highly likely), or am I missing the trick here? 🙂

      • Shoestring says:

        Credit cards have typically increased APR to 40% in the last couple of months, so your real saving is potentially a lot more, ie if you owed that sort of money, couldn’t pay it off and decided to get a 12 month holiday, you wouldn’t pay (£3800 x 40%) = £1520 but (£3800 x 3%) = £114

        a nice saving & obvs the Avios on top 🙂

        • Have they? Not one of my 9 credit cards are anywhere near 40% (nor have I noticed any increase recently – but I don’t pay attention as I don’t pay interest anyway). Are you sure you’re not confusing this with overdrafts?

          • Shoestring says:

            stand corrected: overdrafts it is

            obviously paying even less attention than you

      • You are correct. This only works if you are offered a 0% fee deal.

  7. OT: visiting HK for Easter on the way to and back from Philippines. We have 2 nights booked at the IC but need another 2 nights somewhere cheaper for the return. Which Holiday Inn or HIX has the best location for sight seeing?

    thanks

    • Indigo in the Wanch is good. Good status recognition (spire)- room upgrade, a couple of beers in the room and 150$ in the bar

    • Which IC did you book?

      The Crowne Plaza at Causeway Bay is well located.

      • Thanks Steve & Phil.
        Booked the IC Salisbury.
        I am between HIX Causeway, Indigo Wanch and HIX Soho. We are just looking for somewhere central as we will be out sightseeing most of the time. And also convenient to get to and from airport,

  8. It’s a nice piece Rob, but leaves so much unanswered it’s pointless, almost as if you stopped listening to your own editorial policy. No mention of Virgin/Delta/United. Once you’ve Pre-Cleared you have to be in a sterile area, and that in Dublin for example is where the lounge is located. Having done only AA from Dublin I’m not sure about all lounges, but I think they all share the 51st and Green one used by AA. Given Virgin, and it’s passengers, love affair with the Clubhouse how would this ever work for them. I find it a stretch to believe HAL get away with a PC facility for BA/AA and DL/VS/UA go oh what a whizz idea, we don’t mind.
    On a separate but related issue, I found PC to be very so so. So I wasted time before the flight instead of after. I felt doing this was more of a benefit to US customs and border than to me. I know people will say but you have to be there early anyway, so use the time PCing, but I’m not sure that stands up based on Dublin. The area to queue is not big enough at certain times, so they only allow the flights they’ve called to start the PC process. So if you’re a real early bird you may wait to PC anyway, no 6 hours Clubhouse visits for those inclined.
    The practical problems of PC at Heathrow are huge, and some dabbling with T5C won’t address lots of them.

    • Last time I did Dublin clearance there was no-one, literally no-one, in the queue.

    • Michael Jennings says:

      I haven’t done it in Dublin, but doing preclearance in Vancouver and then flying to LAX definitely beats flying into LAX and then doing customs and immigration there.

    • I did PC at Dublin twice in 2019…Aer Lingus to DC. It was all a fine experience and it was generally better than having to deal with customs on the US side, which is often a downright painful, tedious and long experience. But the departure area which you’re confined to is sterile and very basic amenities. Classic US airport experience I suppose, in fact worse. So….what if you’re flying BA club world or first? Can’t imagine the 51st and Green is going to be an acceptable lounge for that passenger segment. BA would absolutely need to have their own lounge inside the PC facility for LHR PC to succeed but I’m not sure that would be allowed?

      • I don’t think that’s the issue. I’ve done pre-clearance in Aruba and used a lounge inside the pre-cleared zone. I’m sure many other airports with pre-clearance do have lounges for pre-cleared passengers.

        However you do then need space for a lounge and/or other amenities within that zone. There are presumably checks and processes that would have to be enforced for any staff access, but then there are anyway for anyone who has airside access.

      • You can still have any facilities you want in the pre clearance area. There is no US prohibition on anything just commercial decisions by operators.

        The reason why there is a single lounge at DUB is because the passenger numbers don’t justify airlines having their own. It’s the same as SNN a single lounge.

        So at an LHR pre clearance terminal BA and AA could have a lounge as could VS and DL. Even the commercial operators could as well – if they felt they could make money of course.

        The reason why there are generally few facilities – shops / cafes etc – in pre cleared areas is passengers only go through it a relativly short period before their flight so can use the normal terminal facilities. I’ve been at SNN pre clearing off BA1 and they turn passengers away if their flight isn’t until much later.

  9. Riccatti says:

    The question comes about utilisation of T5C — at the moment it is the cheapest (?) / optimal destination to park wide-body aircraft.

    The second problem is rather late assignment of T5B, T5C gates, given that shuttle is effectively one-directional and take loooong time to wait for. That will make it inconvenient for US departures to use AA Club/Flagship lounge in the main T5 building (and annoy AA elites who’d prefer First check-in, and then will have to track all way to Galleries North for Flagship, then have to track most way back to the train departures).

    Will be fun as AA Club being put in place of Galleries North will be overrun by BA Silvers, sampling the Flagship experience… but then T5 becomes bearable again.

  10. US preclearance is certainly a no- there is an excellent Flyertalk thread about why it is logistically impossible in T5C and also doesn’t make sense on the most basic level (it would have to be set up in duplicate in other terminals for Delta, Virgin, United etc). It would have huge implications too for all part of BA ops – mínimum connecting times, etc etc.

    Lounge in T5C makes sense though.

    • Where would F passengers be accommodated though? It would seem odd to have J pax accommodated near to their gate, but not F.

      • It’s already the case that T5B only has a Galleries Club lounge. Of course F passengers are free to use it; I’m sure I have when travelling F in the past (after spending time in the Concorde Room, of course).

  11. This all makes total sense to me and is possibly why it will never happen haha. Could this imply they’ve figured out how to do pre-clearance for star alliance as well?

    I had understood Terminal 5D / 5E may have been a good candidates for pre-clearance, perhaps BA/BAA have come to the realisation that these plans are well and truly stuck in the mud and they need a plan B.

    I’ll add a conspiracy theory into the mix as well… feels like the gentle nudge of a government trying to encourage the b word along.

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