Sample Paper on Heathrow Airport in London

Heathrow Airport in London


The London Heathrow Airport is one of the major international and busiest airports in England. It is located in London Borough of Hillingdon, West London. Heathrow Airports Holdings own the Airport. Heathrow is the UK’s international hub airport. According to Heathrow Airport Guide, the airport handled about 70 million passengers in 2013 and about 1.3 million tons of cargo annually. Heathrow location has led it to be the hub of preference for transatlantic passengers to Europe claiming a global leadership in terms of international travelers.

The airport has received criticism recently for overcrowding and flights being delayed. The airport was initially designed to serve about 55 million people annually but the number has grown to about 70 million passengers annually by 2012 though this has been resolved by the opening of terminal 5.

The international connecting passengers are not required to go through the Immigration or Customs only the International to domestic connections are required to do so. The Domestic to international travelers can use specialized Immigration screening points if the luggage is already checked.

History of Heathrow

Initially known as ‘London Airport’, Heathrow Airport was officially opened in May 1946 after its control was moved from military to civilian in January 1946. It started as a small grass airfield and it was privately owned. The great Western Aerodrome was used mainly for testing flying with commercial flights landing in close proximity in Heston and HAnworth Park 1944, it was acquired by the air ministry to be constructed as a Royal Air force base but before its completion, the war ended giving way for a prospectus expanded civil aviation. London required a large airport with updated equipments and the partially developed site at Heathrow was perfect. One runway was all set to be used. The first landing involved BOAC Lancastrian from Australia though there were no terminals and travelers checked in at a tent (Butcher 2). In its first year of business, Heathrow was serving about 18 destinations with a capacity of 60,000 passengers and 2,400 tons of cargo.

By 1947, 3 runways were completed and work on other three was progressing though abandoned later and termed as unnecessary. As traffic increased, Heathrow Airport was faced by increased demand for travelers’ facilities and in 1955, the ‘Europa Building’, the first terminal in Heathrow Airport was launched to cater for short-haul flights (this is the current terminal 2). In the same year, the tunnel connecting the main road and Heathrow central area was also inaugurated. In 1968 another new short-haul structure (currently being terminal 1) was launched – it was the largest terminal in Europe at that time. Terminal was launched in 1970 to have room for new Boeing 747s and in 1976 Concorde started to operate from the airport. Terminal 4 was launched in 1986 while terminal 5 in 2008.

Terminal 1

This is the home for domestic flights and some European and long haul flights. There are about 22 airlines operating from this terminal with a capacity of beyond 25 million travelers annually.

Checking in and departure of flights for domestic travelers operations takes place on the first floor of the terminal 1, which is on the left of the concourse. Information and details on various flights is presented on screens located at the way in of the terminal and check-in areas are visibly marked. The checking in desks for international flights are situated at the middle and right side of the concourse. The flight arrivals are situated on the ground floor for international travelers with an exception from arriving from UK, Republic of Ireland, and Channel Islands that are located on the first floor. For long haul flights, passengers are required to check in 3 hrs earlier to their departure. Passengers in the European destinations are required to check in 2 hrs before the departure while for domestic flights, checking in is 90 minutes before the time of departure. Mostly, boarding starts in about 45 minutes before departure (Heathrow Airport Guide).

For some airlines, the check in service is self-service, which is simple and secure to employ and saving a lot of time at the airport. The self-service is available online and on stalls situated at the airport close to the standard check in desks. Some of the airlines providing the service are United Airlines, Lufthansa, and bmi.

Terminal 2

Previously, it was the first terminal named as Europa building. About 30 airlines operate from this terminal with a capacity of over 8 million passengers annually. There are some long hauls flights that operates here though mostly are of European destinations.  Check in is situated on the ground floor of the Terminal 2 while flight departures and Arrivals are situated on the first floor of the terminal. Some airlines offer self-service check ins services available in kiosks near the check in desks.

Terminal 2 was temporarily closed in 2009 to pave way for modernization work and is expected to be reopened in 2014. The project includes the terminal 2 building satellite pier, a spacious car parking lot, an energy center and a cooling point. Resumption of airlines will take place in phases over an expected period of six months. This is to avoid the challenges that were encountered with the terminal 5.

Terminal 3

Opened in 1961, terminal 3 serves about 26 airlines today ( Ares et al 8). About 15.5 million people use the terminal every year. The main operations involve long haul flights although there are some for European destinations. The check in and Arrivals are situated on the ground floor of the terminal while flight departures are located on the first floor. The left luggage facilities are also available in the arrival hall Self-service check in facilities is available for some airlines like American Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, and SAS.  The main flight destinations include US, South America, and Asia (Heathrow Airport Guide).

Passengers are required to report and check in about 3 hrs before the time of departure for international flights. Passengers for European flights are required to check in 2 hrs before the flight and 1 hr for domestic flights.

Terminal 4

It was inaugurated in 1986 and its used by 37 airlines and serves about 14.2 million travelers every year. The flights operating in this terminal are mainly long hauls and European destinations. The major airline that operates from this terminal includes Air India, Delta, and KLM. Check in is situated on the first floor of the terminal alongside the Departures. The roof of terminal 4’s short-term parking lot is at the similar level which gives travelers a direct access. The flight arrivals are situated on the ground floor. There are self-service check ins offered by some airlines like Air France, KLM, and Gulf Air. There are left luggage services that are offered situated at the western end of the arrivals. The flight destinations include USA, Asia, Africa, and Australia.

Terminal 5

This is the newest Terminal in Heathrow Airport. It was in inaugurated in 2008 at a cost of about £4 billion and have five, big floors equivalent to 5o football pitches. It exclusively hosts British Airways and Ibera. Queen Elizabeth II opened it.

The terminal has a lot of facilities. It has two car hire companies – Avis and Budget. There are a number of hotels near the terminal. One can also leave excess load at the terminal, a facility operated by the Excess Baggage Company located on the ground floor at the UK arrivals side. ATMs are situated throughout the terminal before and after the passport control center. The Bureau de exchange facilities are also available.  There are also battery powered  and zero emission vehicles referred to as pods that carry travelers and their baggage (Heathrow Airport Guide).


The Heathrow Express is a direct train service to Paddington station in London. Trains alternate in a span of 15 minutes. The Heathrow Connect is another train service to Paddington and calls other stations en route. It leaves after every 30 minutes. The London Underground  is also available and takes about 45 minutes to Central London.

Buses and coaches also ease traffic from the airport. The National Express and Oxford Bus Company offer services to various parts of UK from the airport. The HotelHoppa coaches carry passengers from terminals to hotels and vice versa.


Works Cited

Ares Elena, Barclays Christopher et al. “Expansion of Heathrow Airport”. House of Common,

2009, 1-10

Butcher Louise. Aviation: London Heathrow Airport. House of Commons.2014, 1-8

Heathrow Airport Guide, History of London Heathrow Airport. Web. 2 June 2014

Heathrow Airport Guide, Heathrow Airport. Terminals. Web. 2 June 2014