Terminal Velocity

By Wheatley, Malcolm | PM Network, December 2009 | Go to article overview

Terminal Velocity


Wheatley, Malcolm, PM Network


UNDER MAJOR SCRUTINY, A PROJECT TEAM FIGHTS THE CLOCK IN ONE OF THE WORLD'S BUSIEST AIRPORTS.

The rules were quite clear from the start.

Heathrow Airport in London, England was going in for a major overhaul of one of its terminals, but there would be absolutely no dust, no noise, no mess-and no daytime working. Basically, there was to be nothing that the millions of people traipsing through the project site might not like.

Each year, the airport handles 67 million passengers flying to more than 180 destinations in 90 countries. And no fewer than 20 million of those travelers pass through Terminal 1, the airport's oldest secrion. Designed and built over 40 years ago, it was cramped and crowded - hardly fitting for global jet setters.

Contaminated with asbestos, the terminal has been extensively altered over the years - but never totally overhauled-to cope with heightened security requirements and an increase in long-haul traffic.

It was obviously time for an upgrade.

Budgeted at £57.6 million, the revamp project touched almost every aspect of the passenger experience, from check-in to baggage handling.

And the terminal wasn't about to suspend operations. Only when all the passengers had gone for the day could die project's contractors converge on die site, squeezing in all the necessary work between the hours of 11 p.m. and 3:30 a.m.

British airports operator BAA Airports launched the project in May 2006 and brought in David Buisson, PMP, to lead the 30-strong team in a race against the clock to turn the concept into reality.

"We needed to get a clearer overall scheme design in place, then a production design that we could work to, and then make sure that all the resources - from external contractors to internal BAA departments - were in place to deliver it," says Mr. Buisson, project manager at Headland Project Management Ltd., Surrey, England.

Along with its battle against time, the team had to deal with all the airlines that would call Terminal 1 home. Managers at BMI, the second-largest airline at the airport, openly feared the worst.

"We were very concerned indeed," says Bill Ward, general manager for Headirow operations at BMI, Castle Donington, England. "The impact on the smoodi running of the product -the customer product and die airport experience product - was potentially very considerable."

The risks were real, but it's amazing what a little competition can do.

A TERMINAL TO CALL THEIR OWN

British Airways was staking its claim in the new Terminal 5, giving the massive carrier and its Oneworld partners an edge over its rivals. Passengers could make their flight connections in a plush new building without the hassle of changing terminals.

Not to be outdone, BMI and die other 24 airlines in die Star Alliance wanted their own posh terminal. With that, the plan to demolish their existing home in Terminal 2 and move to a brand-new site dubbed Terminal 2A was born.

"The opening of Terminal 5 served as die enabler for the wholesale modernization of Headirow to take place, and central to this is a new Terminal 2," explains Julian Foster, BAA Terminal 1 portfolio manager and program leader.

While Terminal 2 was being demolished and its £1 billion replacement constructed, the Star Alliance carriers had to go somewhere. Terminal 1 was designated die temporary space for the airlines while their new home was being built. In addition, major Star Alliance partners United Airlines and Air Canada, previously located in Terminal 3, also made the temporary move to Terminal 1 before joining the others en masse in the move to Terminal 2A.

The good news was that the plan called for a relatively small amount of traditional construction work. Instead, facilities such as check-in desks and baggage conveyors were to be built offsite, tested, stripped down, shipped to a logistics holding area at Headirow and installed at night. …

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