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 support the site by paying a commission.  See here for all partner links.

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)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Paul says:

    Don’t know or care what is happening 2-5 years hence but the rumours make a degree of sense. Johnson also needs to show that there is some sort of relationship with the US and having pre clearance would be a fairly easy win.
    I however, would be more concerned about further increases in bussing for short-haul. In the last year I have lost count of how many times late evening European arrivals have been bussed or parked out in 5B or C. Anything that makes that worse would be unacceptable.

    • John says:

      That’s down to BA. If BA wanted to they could arrange for all evening arrivals to be airbridged before being towed to the stand later.

    • Lady London says:

      When I land and it’s a bl*sted bus, it takes so long I always think of it as the airline fudging the arrival time. It adds so much time before you actually reach the terminal.

      It seems to be done for airline convenience reasons such as the plane’s next movement being to maintenance. Its particularly annoying on late evening arrivals as the extra time may mean you miss other transport.

      • Polly says:

        That might explain my last flt from dub, frequently a bus run…almost takes as long as the flight!
        LL see ya tomorrow evening, good catch up needed…..

        • Lady London says:

          🙂 looking forward to seeing you both again

        • Stu_N says:

          Dublin is a special case, there’s only a couple of gates that can be set up for arrivals – there’s no immigration but you still need to clear customs.

  • Charlieface says:

    I don’t think people are realising how T5C would be configured. The mezzanine level becomes the same gates doubled up, with extra escalators to each gate. This means they don’t need to worry about which gate they park at because it’s just a matter of reconfiguring the doors. A similar system is used in Dublin. Also Amsterdam use it for section D Schengen gates.

    • Mark says:

      I know separate Schengen and non-Schengen departure floors sharing the same gates are common-place in Europe, but we’re talking about a relatively constrained space here. It’s already pretty cramped, especially for A380 departures.

      The existing departure floor would lose considerable space with additional escalators providing gate access from the Mezzanine. And on the Mezzanine floor itself, a new lounge as well as any other amenities in the pre-cleared zone?

  • Harry T says:

    OT but T5:
    In Plaza Premium T5 and some fellow is watching sport on his iPad using the loud speaker. The conduct of people in public spaces continues to baffle me.

    Mind you, this isn’t as entertaining as the time I watched two gentlemen pack all the sandwiches in PP T5 into their backpack and then literally run out of the lounge.

    • Lady London says:

      Have you politely asked him to apply headphones? Or spoken to staff to ask if they would have a word with the person?

      What are other poster views of such possible courses of action/no action ?

      • Peter K says:

        I think if it annoys you enough to post a comment on it, then take some action. Personally I’d go to speak to a staff member as a first port of call.

      • Shoestring says:

        put your 2 hands together into a megaphone shape and start shouting: ‘oy! oy, you! shut it! shu-u-u-u-ut it!’

      • Harry T says:

        I was more amused than perturbed. I wouldn’t consider doing the same as this gentleman; thought it was more curious than genuinely abhorrent. I just moved to a quieter spot when I fancied a nap!

    • Roy says:

      I’ve definitely noticed an increase in antisocial use of loudspeakers on phones/tables in recent years.(Generally, I mean, rather than specifically in lounges.)

      That said I think it’s just gone full circle. There was a point, decades ago, when antisocial use of portable radios and then, briefly, boom boxes, was a common problem. Then the ubuqiuity of the Walkman and its successors and imitations largely changed the nature of portable music, and the biggest problem you were likely to encounter (in extremis still annoyting) was people driving their headphones so loud you could hear them.

      Now, of course, everyone carries a phone or tablet (or both) with speakers, and people are starting to use them in ways that are challenging previous norms…

      • Fenny says:

        When the students did this at college, staff would go over and dance and sing along. It certainly made the kids move off and we got to comment make fatuous comments about their music.

  • Mark says:

    Of course we’re not just talking about carving off separate zones for pre-cleared passengers here. We’re also talking about significant space requirements for the pre-clearance itself, including space for the terminals, manned booths, interview rooms, queuing space, baggage reclaim, customs, post-customs bag drop, amendment of the baggage system to convey bags to where they need to be. Assuming T5C was never designed with that in mind, and there is unused space hidden away to accommodate it , I can’t see how that could ever be possible.

    • James says:

      Hi, sorry if it’s obvious, but why would pre clearance require baggage drop in T5C?
      Wouldn’t bags still be dropped as usual?
      All that would be needed in T5C is the US customs booths and agents.?

      • ChrisC says:

        You need space for a security area – you go through full, additional security screening.- so you need scanners and the tray system for carry ons plus a queueing area.

        Also the baggage system needs to take a photo of your bags when you check-in which they show you as part of pre clearance. You don’t actually carry your bags through that part so no reclaim is needed.

        Pre clearance is not entirely the same process as clearing immigration on landing in the US.

        There are videos on the Shannon and Dublin airport websites that explain the process.

        • Mark says:

          In that case it must work slightly differently depend on where you pre-clear. We definitely did get our checked bags back in Aruba (after checking them in as normal), walked them through customs and dropped them again.

          I honestly can’t remember whether we had to do that in Toronto, which is the only other place we’ve done preclearance.

        • James says:

          Ah ok.
          I have only ever done the pre clearance at Toronto Airport.
          Its much simpler there vs What Ireland sounds like.

          • Lady London says:

            In YYZ it was so simple I see didn’t even know I’d precleaned. IIRC it was a bit like Eurostar – through a Canadian immi/transit terminal then under a sign in the YYZ terminal saying US border then being interviewed by a US Immigration officer then landing in FLL domestically.

  • Delboy65 says:

    O/T Sorry, but having ever flown a code share in the USA i am trying to get advice as to which option is best from a TP and Avios point of view when returning from San Jose, CA.. I am Bronze and the direct fare on BA in WT+ (6,711av/90TP) is same fare as a few connection options like: SJC-DFW AA (Econ B class) then BA WT+ to LHR.. Do you earn Av & TP for both legs of the code share (I.e. 20+90 TP)?

  • Wasn’t Me says:

    A couple of points here to mention from the article… there is NO more room in T5C for extra aircraft, all stands are used already.
    Also, T5B A380 stands are only on the side opposite T5C…as taxiway Bravo in only code ‘Enforcement, therefore not A380 accessible.

  • JP says:

    I can see quite a big drop-off of BA and AA passengers if there is no alternative but to tramp down the escalators/wait for the lift and then wait for the shuttle (hang on tight!) and then reverse the process at the other end.
    It’s a pain in the proverbial having to do it by chance and I’m reasonably fit and not your average stereotyped corpulent captain of industry!
    I’ve only had to do it three times in the last couple of years and already the novelty of the quietude and different views from T5B and C have worn off.

    • Riccatti says:

      Imagine a track for an AA top elite:

      First Wing check-in on south side of terminal,
      Run all way to north side (potential AA Flagship instead of Galleries North)
      Run almost all way back to south side to catch train to T5 satellites B, C
      Huge escalator
      Wait for the train shuttle (one-direction there and back)

  • Richard Lee-Smith says:

    This would surely require similar arrangements at T2 and T3 for UA and VS/DL respectively in order to maintain a level playing field?

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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.