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It is around four months until London Heathrow’s new Terminal 2: The Queen’s Terminal opens its doors to passengers. So the team behind the facility has a stressful few months ahead ensuring the terminal is ready on time, right? Actually, no. Having experienced the difficulties following the opening of Terminal 5 six years ago, when thousands of bags went astray, this time Heathrow has built more time into the schedule to carry out any necessary fine-tuning way ahead of opening. “We passed the milestone of being build complete in November 2013 – this was a stage we got to with T5 only a week or two before we opened,” says John Holland-Kaye, London Heathrow development director.

Currently staff and passenger volunteers are running through the processes within the terminal so that the entire passenger journey is tested thoroughly. “We left ourselves six months to do all the operational readiness testing needed to make sure the terminal building works as it should, both in normal circumstances and in contingency mode, and to familiarise all the 24,000 people who are going to work at the facility about doing their job,” says Holland-Kaye.

London Heathrow has worked hard to learn lessons from the T5 opening, however Holland-Kaye says there are still challenges ahead: “Opening a passenger terminal anywhere around the world is a complex challenge and some teething problems are inevitable with a project on this scale; it will be a huge challenge,” he adds.

The terminal, which will be the new home of the 22 Star Alliance airlines as well as Aer Lingus, Virgin Atlantic Little Red and Germanwings carriers, will open in phases beginning on 4 June 2014, with airlines moving in over a period of six months. The first aircraft to land at the terminal will be a United Airlines flight from Chicago, due to land at 05:55am on 4 June. Around 10% of flights will operate for the first three weeks of June before gradually building up to full operation.

Left: North-facing skylights in T2’s roof provide glare-free daylight all the way from check-in to boarding

Design challenge

Terminal 2 will be able to handle 20 million passengers a year and has been designed around the needs of the passenger – to enable them to get to and from their flights as quickly as possible. Holland-Kaye says, “This next step in Heathrow’s transformation will deliver a better journey for passengers and a more efficient and reliable infrastructure for airlines.”

The architects in charge of the design of T2 was Luis Vidal + Architects, based in Spain. “We always approach airport design from the point of view of the passenger experience,” says Luis Vidal. “We want to make our buildings functional and flexible, and I believe we have achieved exactly that with Terminal 2. We designed the facility to reduce passenger anxiety and make them feel comfortable in the space.”

Vidal explains how the design of the terminal was developed with intuitive wayfinding in mind so passengers don’t necessarily need to rely on signage to find their way through the building. “One way we achieved this was through the design of the roof,” he says. “The roof is made up of three large vaults, like waves, under which you have one of each of the main processing functions during passengers’ journeys. Under the first vault is check-in, ticketing and bag-drop, under the second is the security checkpoint, and under the third are the boarding gates. When passengers are standing in the building they can easily see the processes ahead of them and that is what drives them forward in the building.”

Vidal says that the use of textures, natural light and colours are also important elements that help towards intuitive passenger wayfinding. “For example, the underside of the roof is like a painter’s white canvas, which not only helps the acoustics in the building by reducing the amount of noise that bounces off, but it also bounces light back into the space. Skylights enable natural light to enter and this light bounces off the white canvas and circulates throughout the facility. Artificial lights are also fitted on to the roof, so the canvas helps that light travel at night when there is no natural light,” he says.

The natural light created by the skylights helps to reduce the reliance on artificial lighting, thereby reducing fuel emissions. In fact, Terminal 2 is Heathrow’s most sustainable terminal yet. The skylights and the facility’s 10m-high floor-to-ceiling windows maximise natural light. The skylights are also north-facing and therefore provide glare-free daylight all the way from check-in to aircraft boarding.

In addition, a sophisticated lighting control system keeps energy use down by switching off lights when parts of the building are not in use or when the daylight is bright enough.

“The use of a glazed façade, which incorporates solar-controlled glass and angled louvres also ensures that the terminal does not overheat in the sunshine,” says Vidal. “And an overhanging roof shades the south-facing windows.” In addition, water-efficient fittings in the terminal reduce water consumption. To cut the use of potable water even further,

there are boreholes, which should supply most of the water for the cooling plant and toilets.

Left: T2’s check-in desks have been designed to create a more informal atmosphere

Common check-in

Within T2, the latest technology and processes have been implemented to ensure Heathrow’s aim of making ‘every journey better’ becomes a reality. One of the key areas the airport has focused on is check-in. Heathrow has developed a common check-in area, which, according to Holland-Kaye “will really improve passenger experience”.

“I don’t think this type of common check-in area is used anywhere else in the world,” he says. “Currently, if you want to check in with one airline, it typically has its own kiosk. This is not a particularly efficient use of facilities as it means that a passenger may be standing in a queue at one kiosk, when next to them there is a kiosk operated by another airline where there is no queue. This obviously slows down passengers and doesn’t provide a great passenger experience,” Holland-Kaye explains.

To improve the check-in experience, Heathrow worked with all 22 Star Alliance airline members to come up with a way in which passengers can check in at any kiosk with any airline, and drop their bag at any bag-drop. “We will have only one handler in each check-in zone so that we can make this common check-in work,” says Holland-Kaye. “Of course, we will also offer full-service check-in for airlines that want to offer their premium passengers a more personalised experience.”

Dealing with economy check-in in a common way meant that Heathrow had to work closely with the airlines to help change their systems and processes and train their people to ensure the process works. One of the changes was to ensure that all airlines have a standard format bag tag that will work with all the kiosks. “It is a big transformation, but one that will help improve passenger satisfaction, provide a better use of facilities, and help reduce costs for the airlines,” Holland-Kaye adds.

After check-in, passengers proceed through to security, where there are 24 security lanes. There are more lanes than currently needed to ensure passenger flow remains high at all times. “We have also built in a lot of space for people to get ready before security and to recompose themselves after security, so it should be a much more relaxing process,” says Holland-Kaye. “We also have four premium fast-track security lanes, which offer the shortest possible walk through the terminal.”

Left: The 16 boarding gates are linked to the main terminal building

Pride of Britain

The retail offering within Terminal 2 has been developed to reflect Great Britain in terms of the food and shops on offer. “We wanted to make sure there is a real sense of place within the departure lounge so passengers know that they are in London,” says Holland-Kaye. Much-loved British brands including Cath Kidston and John Lewis will be present in the facility. This is the first airport store John Lewis has opened and it will occupy a 3,600ft² shop, which will showcase its wide range of homeware, fashion and gifts. “There will also be shops that offer the essentials and luxury goods that passengers expect in an airport,” adds Holland-Kaye.

The food and beverage also captures the diversity of eating in London. “London is one of the greatest cities in the world for eating out,” says Holland-Kaye. “It has a great reputation and we want to reflect that. We will have everything from grab-and-go from companies such as Eat and Leon Restaurants. Some really great female chefs will have flagship restaurants, and Heston Blumenthal will open his first and only airport outlet. Although he will be one of the stars of the show, he’s positioning it as a mainstream offer so people will be able to enjoy the creativity of one of the world’s best chefs without booking two months in advance.”

The actual layout of the 10,700m² commercial space within T2 has been designed so that it is easy for passengers to navigate. The Design Solution’s Graeme Johns, the director in charge of the retail planning at T2, explains more: “The sightlines within the retail space are really clear so passengers can easily see the shops on offer from wherever they are in the area. A lot more space has been given over to retail on the upper level than there is in T5, so it has become a fully fledged two-level commercial scheme with about a 45%/55% upper/lower level mix. This is extremely unusual in an airport. “This layout helps improve passenger footfall within the shops because it is very compact. There is more concession frontage to see, which makes it easier to navigate around the area,” Johns adds.

Left: T2B has been built alongside T2, and will serve half of T2’s 20 million passengers

The future of Terminal 2

The opening of T2 in June represents Phase 1 of the overall T2 project. Once the facility is up and running, Heathrow will move on to the next phase, which will see the 60-year-old Terminal 1 demolished and T2 expanded into that space. “T2 will pretty much double in size and will actually be bigger than T5 when it is finished,” says Holland-Kaye.

The current design of the building takes into account the future expansion of the facility, as Vidal explains: “The north façade is temporary – it can easily be brought down so the building can be extended. We designed T2 to be easily expandable right from the start to ensure we minimised disruption as much as possible.”

Holland-Kaye adds, “Once complete, we will be able to move all the airlines out of T3 into T2 and then we can work on demolishing T3.” Heathrow’s masterplan states that all this development work will be complete by 2030-2035.

“When all this work is complete, we will find ourselves with two large terminals, T2 and T5, with satellite buildings linking them, which makes for a much more efficient layout for an airport.”

T2’s satellite, T2B, was opened in 2009 and linked to T1 by a tunnel. Once T2 opens, passengers will be able to walk easily between the main T2 and the 522m satellite pier.

“T2 will be able to handle 35-40 million passengers and T5 will cater for 30 million passengers. Alongside this we will have T4, which has recently been completely refurbished. It currently handles about 10-15 million passengers. The terminals will be linked by integrated baggage systems and passenger movement services so both can get easily from one part of the airport to another. We hope to make Heathrow the most modern and efficient hub airport in Europe,” Holland-Kaye concludes.

February 19, 2014

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Kirstie joined the team in early 2017 and brings writing, communications and client experience with her. Now an assistant editor, she produces content for our magazines and websites. Away from the office, you will find her blogging on her lifestyle website or searching the internet for photos of sausage dogs.

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