Lessons >>> Lesson 13
London Heathrow is one of four major airports serving London. It is consider to be the best of them, and one of the best world airports. BAA (British Airports Authority) is the private company which owns Heathrow. It also owns Gatwick and Stansted.
Heathrow Airport started life as a tented village in 1946 serving only 18 destinations with a handful of airlines making just 9,000 flights a year. The first departure took place on 1 January 1946 bound for Buenos Aires via Lisbon, which was its first refuelling stop on a long haul flight to open up Britain's first air link with South America. In 2000 - 2001 Heathrow operated over 450,000 flights, transporting 63 million passengers through over 90 airlines to 183 destinations worldwide. The airport is named after the village or hamlet of Heathrow, located approximately where Terminal 3 now stands.
There are currently four terminals, with terminal one being for domestic/international flights, terminal two for European flights, terminal three for inter-continental flights and terminal four for for British Airways long haul and Concorde flights and BA flights to Amsterdam, Athens, Paris, Moscow and Tel Aviv. It is thus important before you set off for the airport to know which terminal you are flying from otherwise finding your way around can get quite confusing.
The building of a fifth passenger terminal at Heathrow was given the go ahead by the government in 2001 after an arduous 3 year and 10 month planning inquiry. Terminal 5 will be enormous. Bigger than the whole of Heathrow is today. In fact, on its own, it would be Europe's third largest airport. Terminal 5 will have the capacity to handle over 30 million additional passengers each year.
If you are afraid of flying Heathrow is the perfect airport to fly from. With it being the Europe's busiest airport, offering the most flights to nearly every location, the actual airport is huge. This can be to your advantage as within this huge site, there is a small town, with hundreds of shops across the four terminals. These shops are often the ideal remedy to forget about flying. If you indulge yourself in an hour or so of shopping, you will soon forget that you are due to fly.
There are many cafes, pubs, restaurants and fast food places. In the airport cafes and restaurants are expensive as you might expect but generally the standards of catering are quite good.
There is also a broad range of tax free shops if you are flying to a destination outside Europe. These have replaced the old duty-free shops but still offer branded goods at a cut-price. Prices are good and it is worth picking up alcohol, fragrances, electronic goods and designer goods. Chain restaurants such as McDonalds and Burger King carry a guarantee that they will not charge exorbitant prices to their captive audience.
The airport is very modern and clean with all of the facilities you would expect for a large airport and many more. Customs clearance is usually fast and efficient and clearing passport control is pretty stress free.
Looking out of the windows at Heathrow is also fascinating as there is a plane taking off or landing every few seconds from one of the many runways. Wind direction has been important for aircraft. Planes generally land into the wind. Since the west wind prevails in Britain for at least 75% of the time, planes coming into Heathrow have had to fly over London. This is known as westerly operations.
The one slight disadvantage for the airport is its location, but the transport links to it are excellent. The Picadilly Line (the blue one) runs right to Heathrow from Central London and the tubes are very frequent. You can take also the Heathrow express rail link - which is incidentally very expensive, taxis, mini cabs, cars or Heathrow airbuses.
There are shuttle buses operating between the different terminals. Each terminal has its own car parks but the costs are pretty extortionate. There is also a coach station and this will enable people to go to all parts of the country. These provide possibly the cheapest form of transport.
Note: Total passengers enplaned and deplaned, passengers in transit counted once.
Source: Airports Council International World Headquarters, Geneva, Switzerland.
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