Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Heathrow Terminal 5 'Too Little, Too Late'; Business Travel

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Heathrow Terminal 5 'Too Little, Too Late'; Business Travel

Article excerpt

Byline: UPDESH KAPUR

THE "too little, too late" decision to give the go-ahead to Heathrow's T5 project may lose the top UK airport its pre-eminent position among Europe's top flight.

Heathrow is still seen as the most important strategic hub linking Europe with the rest of the world, yet its rivals boast better, more user-friendly facilities.

The [pound]2.5 billion Terminal 5 - "desperately needed to maintain its position in Europe", says airports operator BAA's chief executive officer Mike Hodgkinson - will be capable of handling 30 million people a year. But even when the terminal is constructed in five years' time, it will already be full to overflowing.

With the limitations on aircraft movements and night flying, Heathrow will depend on bigger aircraft such as the new Airbus to bring in passenger numbers.

BAA says extra capacity is needed in addition to, not instead of, a fifth terminal.

There are Government plans for three new runways in south-east England, but it is the more immediate threat of airport expansion across continental Europe that is causing UK Aviation Plc major concern.

BAA argues that if airlines are denied the opportunity to grow at Heathrow, many airlines could choose other European airports.

For years, US airlines have been trying to gain better access to Heathrow, hampered by an antiquated arrangement of two British and two US airlines.

There have been breakthroughs, however. Singapore Airlines has recently acquired space at Heathrow to build a two-level business lounge to coincide with the launch of the double-deck Airbus 380 in 2006. But it is not enough.

Heathrow still has the advantage of a better choice of onward flights, but regional passengers are finding it more convenient to bypass London and fly instead via mainland Europe to their final destination.

Of all Heathrow's continental rivals, it is Amsterdam's airport which is proving the most serious alternative. With 18 UK regional departure points across the UK, KLMuk feeds business to its solitary European destination of Amsterdam, from where passengers can take connections. …

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