Just when I got to Heathrow for my Etihad flight to Kuala Lumpur the police closed down terminal 3 and evacuated everyone. No one from the BAA staff seems to know more at this point.
Update: Fire engines are arriving but are held back at the holding area outside the Central Bus Terminal.
Update: The terminal has just been reopened. Now hundreds of people are trying to get back in. It looks chaotic!
Update: I’ve now made my way to Kuala Lumpur but nearly missed my plane in London since I had to queue for about an hour for security at Terminal 3 and it seemed as most other passengers of that flight were already through it before the evacuation. Luckily for me the fantastic onboard service from Etihad Airlines made up for the Heathrow shambles.
I am sure you agree that 2008 has been a very difficult eventful year. This also holds also true for the aviation industry as our selection of the top 10 news stories about airports shows:
10. London Stansted blockade
Early December environmental activists have stopped flights at London’s Stansted airport (IATA: STN) after breaking through to the runway, raising security concerns at Britain’s third-busiest airport. The protests against a further expansion of the airport caused a serious knock-on effect on the airport’s flight operations causing over 50 flights to be cancelled.
9. Opening of Beijing airport Terminal 3
On March 26, Beijing airport (IATA: PEK) opened its new Terminal 3, designed by Sir Norman Foster, after four years of construction. It is the world’s largest airport building, covering more than a million square meters, designed to accommodate an estimated 50 million passengers a year by 2020.
8. Closure of Berlin’s iconic Tempelhof airport
Open one, close one; on the October 30, Berlin’s iconic Tempelhof airport closed down for good. Originally opened in 1923, the later built airport halls and neighbouring buildings, intended to become the gateway to Europe and a symbol of Hitler’s “world capital” Germania. Read our full coverage here.
7. Kalitta Air crash at Brussels airport
On Sunday, 25 May a Boeing 747 cargo plane overshot the runway at Brussels Zaventem airport (IATA: BRU) and crashed resulting the aircraft to break into 2 parts. The spectacular picture made the news everywhere.
6. Frightening landing at Hamburg’s airport
A low pressure system named “Emma” nearly caused a disaster at Hamburg airport (IATA: HAM) in March. The Lufthansa A320 plane struggled to make the runway through 90 kilometre-per-hour crosswinds resulting in the 39 year old pilots last minute go-around procedure and a safe second attempt. The frightening approach was caught on camera and is an extraordinary piece which will now probably be used all over the world in pilot training classrooms.
5. Hong Kong wins ‘Airport of the Year’ award
In July Hong Kong International airport (IATA: HKG) was named best Airport in the world, in the passenger survey results released by Skytrax. Despite being “only” rated in 5th place in the most-timely airport survey, Hong Kong received the prestigious award after Skytrax collected 8.2 million questionnaires completed by passengers over a 10-month time period. Read our congratulating article here.
4. Spanair crash at Madrid airport
A combination of basic pilot error and an electrical failure was the possible cause of the crash of a Spanair plane at Madrid’s Barajas airport (IATA: MAD) on 20 August that killed 154 people. The airport was closed for several hours after the accident.
3. Radar malfunction at Dublin airport
In the midst of the summer holiday season, Dublin airport (IATA: DUB) made the news with its malfunctioning radar system which meant that controllers lost some functionality on their screens meaning they were unable to see the labels attached to ‘blips’ that signify individual aircraft. The problem resulted in massive delays and many cancellations over several days.
In March BAA, the company that owns Heathrow airport, opened its newest addition of what should have been a proud event for London’s most criticised airport. Instead, the opening resulted in a PR disaster with BAA losing thousands of bags over several months. The event then became one of the triggers leading to the demands of breaking up BAA’s monopolistic ownership of airports in the UK.
British Airways today introduced a new program where they “generously” give away 5,000 airmiles when your flight from Heathrow Terminal 5 is more than 15 minutes delayed:
As part of our commitment to giving you outstanding service, we do everything we can to get you to your destination on time. So if in spite of all our efforts we can’t depart from Terminal 5 within 15 minutes* of scheduled departure time over the coming weeks, we’d like to give you more than just an apology:
When you fly Club Europe, Euro Traveller or Domestic Flights on a flexible ticket (booking classes JCDYBH) departing from Terminal 5 between now and 02 September 2008 you’ll receive
5,000 BA Miles if your flight leaves later than 15 minutes* of its scheduled departure time from Terminal 5.
BA actually has been doing this for quite some time, but you only received the miles when you actively complained about a particular flight. This offer now sounds fairly generous since manymost Heathrow flights these days suffer a delay. In fairness this delay is often not the result of a problem caused by the airlines, but more because of the airport’s severe capacity constraints. And, surprise, surprise, the small print of BA’s offer then exactly excludes those kind of delays:
British Airways reserves the right to exclude at its discretion any flights where disruption occurs beyond the reasonable control of British Airways. Non–exhaustive examples include severe weather conditions and their ongoing or consequent effects, air traffic control delays and industrial action.
With that, this offer all of a sudden sounds more like a common PR exercise than an innovative and generous customer centric solution.
AEA’s survey of its members’ punctuality at 27 major airports identifies London Heathrow as the most affected, with 44.1% of European departures subject to delays of 15 minutes or more – substantially higher than second-place Dublin with 33.0%, followed by Helsinki, Geneva and Frankfurt – all three of which are customarily to be found in the lower half of the delay table.
This surely comes as a huge surprise to all of us. Not really. Heathrow has long been troubled by lengthy delays many caused by its limited number of runways and overall capacity problems. According to the report 15.3 per cent of outgoing flights delays were caused by problems with airport and air traffic control, while a further 11.1 per cent was blamed on loading and handling issues.
This news couldn’t have come at a worse time for BAA, the owner of Heathrow airport as the Daily Mail writes
The latest figures will add further pressure on the Government to end BAA’s much-criticised monopoly on London’s major airports.