London Heathrow's Terminal 5 will be a European showpiece when it opens on March 27 next year. British Airways will dominate the £4.3 billion T5 and the airline has spent £60 million alone on the 'Galleries' which it claims will be the world's largest lounge complex. The Galleries will cover 15,000 square metres in size with space to work, relax, eat and drink, and there will be a new travel spa. It will hold 2,500 passengers.
BA also maintains that flight connections will be smoother as most passengers will be transferring within a single terminal. Baggage and ground handling will also be slicker claims BA and the airline says overall standards will surpass those at rivals Paris CDG, Amsterdam and Frankfurt.
But T5 will disappoint some travellers. Passengers taking some BA flights (T5 can accommodate only 90 per cent of BA's services) plus those connecting between BA and fellow Oneworld carriers will have to switch terminals between T5 and T3 which are over a mile apart.
This is in stark contrast with the situation at Paris CDG, Frankfurt, Munich and Amsterdam where both the home airline and its alliance partners are grouped under the same roof for ease of connectivity.
The BA flights which won't be using T5 include the BA/Qantas code-share flights to Bangkok, Singapore and Sydney, GB Airways' franchise services plus BA flights to Barcelona, Madrid, Lisbon, Nice and Helsinki.
Oneworld members also stand to be disadvantaged. It means a Scottish traveller who prefers to fly Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong will arrive in T5 with BA from Edinburgh, but will then need to take a time-consuming road transfer airside to T3 (or by underground/ train landside).
Good news for BA (it might prompt this passenger to fly BA throughout), not such good news for Cathay Pacific and other Oneworld partners. They may feel being excluded from T5 isn't in the spirit of the alliance.
Good news perhaps for connecting passengers taking rival Star member Bmi. Ironically it will mean easier transfers to Oneworld members. Bmi uses T1 (the new designated terminal for Star Alliance members) which is within the Central Area and closer to T3.
A BA spokesman says, "The above situation will be no different to that of today whereby passengers need to transfer between T1 and T4. But with T5 it will mean that a greater percentage of passengers will be staying under one roof. T5 consists of three buildings A, B and C. Sections A and B will open next year with C to follow in 2010. When we get the extra capacity [with C] we will be able to review matters."
BA's move to T5 (and T3 in some cases) is planned in several phases between March 27 and the end of October 2008.
• At the end of March some 70 per cent of BA flights will move to T5 including all long-haul flights from T1 and all short-haul flights from T1 (with some exceptions).
• A further 20 per cent of flights will move to T5 from end April. These include all long-haul flights from T4 with the exception of the BA/Qantas code-shares.
• GB Airways' franchise services and a number of other routes (see above) will switch from T1 to T3 at the end of June.
• BA/Qantas code-shares will move from T4 to T3 at the end of October.
For more information go to ba.com.
Report by Alex McWhirter