Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

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.

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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  • Steve says:

    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 🙂

        • callum says:

          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

      • Rob says:

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

  • Ant says:

    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?


    • Steve says:

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

    • Phil says:

      Which IC did you book?

      The Crowne Plaza at Causeway Bay is well located.

      • Ant says:

        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,

        • Steve says:

          Indigo is about 5min from the MTR. The rooftop overhanging pool swung it for me.

  • Doug M says:

    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.

    • Rob says:

      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.

    • Aaron says:

      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?

      • Mark says:

        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.

      • ChrisC says:

        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.

  • 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.

  • Edd M says:

    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.

    • Anna says:

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

      • Mark says:

        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).

  • MT says:

    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.

  • BlueThroughCrimp says:

    Thought most of the A380 gates were in T5C?

    • John says:


      • BlueThroughCrimp says:

        Not true. From 2014
        544 – 2 airbridges – not usually used for A380 ops
        545 – 2 airbridges – not usually used for A380 ops
        546 – 2 airbridges – not usually used for A380 ops
        547 – 2 airbridges – not usually used for A380 ops

        555 – 3 airbridges
        556 – 3 airbridges
        557 – 3 airbridges
        561 – 1 airbridge – not usually used for A380 ops
        562 – 3 airbridges
        563 – 3 airbridges
        564 – 3 airbridges
        565 – 3 airbridges

    • Doug M says:

      I think T5B has some A380 capable gates, not sure they’re used.

      • BlueThroughCrimp says:

        Yes, after digging FT, it’s the majority, but not all that are at 5C.

    • George K says:

      Went on the 380 to SIN from T2B just a few months ago…

      • AndyGWP says:

        T2B??…. or not 2B? 😁

      • Mark says:

        The discussion was within the scope of T5… for which the actively used gates are all in T5C. There are also A380 gates in T3 and T4 as well as T2B.

        • BlueThroughCrimp says:

          Yes, I omitted those others as it wasn’t really applicable to the conversation.
          The reason I raised the question of T5C if it becomes the US hub, where will the non-US A380 flights shift to, or will the A380s be dumped by the time it happens?
          Do BA own, or lease them?

  • Mikeact says:

    Maybe correct, but I doubt in my lifetime….. bit like our A27 South Coast trunk road, promises, promises. Will it ever happen ? Of course not.

    • John says:

      Why not? Preclearance came to Abu Dhabi pretty soon after the speculation

      • marcw says:

        Speculation for LHR has been going on for years (2015) –

        “The 10 airports identified for possible preclearance locations include: Brussels Airport, Belgium; Punta Cana Airport, Dominican Republic; Narita International Airport, Japan; Amsterdam Airport Schipol, Netherlands; Oslo Airport, Norway; Madrid-Barajas Airport, Spain; Stockholm Arlanda Airport, Sweden; Istanbul Ataturk Airport, Turkey; and London Heathrow Airport and Manchester Airport, United Kingdom. These countries represent some of the busiest last points of departure to the United States – in 2014, nearly 20 million passengers traveled from these ten airports to the US.”

        I believe no pre clearance has openned in any of the listed airports.

      • ChrisC says:

        Abu Dhabi also paid for it all (as required by US law) and they also pay the excess costs of the CBP officers based there over and above the CBP charge of the passenger fees.

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