Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

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

Links on Head for Points may pay us an affiliate commission. A list of partners is here.

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)

  • ChrisC says:

    The only way LHR gets pre clearance is if all airlines flying to the US can use it otherwise it could be seen to amount to state aid and we know Willie doesn’t like state aid!

    And that would require a major rejig of where airlines are located in LHR. Airlines and their passengers aren’t going to want to use busses to transfer pre clearance passengers between terminals.

    And it would require HAL and the airlines to pay both the capital and excess revenue costs (over and above the current CBP passenger charge) as well as per US law (Abu Dhabi seemed happy to pay but maybe not so much at LHR)

  • Simon says:

    I’m sure I once read (in the FT, I think, as opposed to on FT) that the terminal shuttle would be upgraded and extended to link T5 to T3. That would allow for a single common pre clearance area for Delta, Virgin, AA and BA…

    The more interesting question today is around the flybe slots….

  • Marcw says:

    If pre-clearance needs to be available to all US departing airlines… This is not going to happen, unless they also establish pre-clearance facilities at T3 and T2.

    • Lady London says:

      Could the build a ‘pre clearance satellite’ used by all the terminals and extend the train to it? Longhaul looks like being taken out of T2 too?

  • Nick says:

    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.

  • 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!

  • A270 says:

    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.

    • Alan says:

      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!

  • Roger says:

    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.

  • Alan says:

    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?

    • John says:

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

The UK's biggest frequent flyer website uses cookies, which you can block via your browser settings. Continuing implies your consent to this policy. Our privacy policy is here.