‘Back Heathrow’ community campaign begins

A new campaign, ‘Back Heathrow,’ has been launched to give voice to local residents and public who support Heathrow airport.

A community campaign with initial funding by Heathrow Airport, ‘Back Heathrow’ will fight for the jobs and businesses that are dependent on Heathrow. Rob Gray, who lives locally and has previously worked for the Aviation Foundation, has been named as the Campaign Director.

The campaign follows a survey published in June, which revealed that more people in local communities around Heathrow back the airport than oppose it. Meantime a statement from the Mayor last month said that his plans for a new hub airport would require the closure of Heathrow.

A new website, backheathrow.org, has been launched for the campaign, and starting this week over 400,000 newspapers will be delivered to local communities surrounding the airport. The campaign will now begin the process of identifying and recruiting local support.

Rob Gray, Campaign Director for Back Heathrow, said, ‘I am delighted to be joining a campaign to give a voice to the many thousands of local residents who back Heathrow and whose businesses and jobs depend on the future of the airport.’

Heathrow Director of Corporate Affairs, Clare Harbord said, ‘One hundred and fourteen thousand jobs will be lost to the local community forever if Heathrow were forced to close – that’s one in five local jobs in the five boroughs closest to Heathrow. The threat to these jobs is now very real.’

‘Under the Mayor’s plans, the choice is not between a third runway at Heathrow or no third runway. It’s between a third runway at Heathrow or no Heathrow at all. So now is the time to back Heathrow.’

The campaign has already received significant public support with local business people and residents voicing their opinions and concerns.

‘Everybody in this area benefits from the airport whether it be a local greengrocer or a big company. Where I was born in Feltham, everybody worked at the airport whether they worked for a cleaning company, a catering company, a transport company or for one of the airlines. It means so much for the local economy,’ said Neil Martin from Parker Car Service in Isleworth.

‘I have many friends who work at the airport and a lot of friends whose children or parents work there so it’s a lot about generations. Heathrow is our community, I can’t imagine what would happen if it wasn’t there,’ Sarita Sudera, a Security Officer at the airport from Heston, said.

Heathrow upgrades terminal technology

London Heathrow has introduced pioneering technology across its terminals that it claims will help to improve departing flight punctuality and passenger experience at the airport.

The ‘positive boarding’ feature will help reduce airlines’ last minute searches for passengers or their bags, as well as giving travellers more accurate and personalised information to help them make their flight on time.

Now live in Terminals 1 and 3, the software program enables airlines to monitor the departure process and it is compatible with all airlines’ computer systems.

Using the new boarding technology, passengers only need to present the barcode on their ticket, subject to verification, at an automatic gate that opens to allow them through to security. When the boarding pass is presented, details from the barcode are compared against the central flight information, and tailored information for the individual is displayed on screen.

Travellers who fail to arrive at the gate on time after checking-in can cause delays to the departing aircraft while the crews spend time trying to locate them. If the passengers are not found the flight is delayed even more as no bag can travel without its owner, so baggage-handlers have to unload their bags. Positive boarding helps the airlines to make timely decisions to remove the baggage and keep to their departure schedule.

After extensive trials at Heathrow, Virgin Atlantic is the first airline to adopt the process in Terminal 3, and Little Red in Terminal 1. During the first week, 35,000 passengers successfully used the positive boarding technology as part of their departure journey. According to the data, 44 percent of the departing Virgin Atlantic and Little Red flights had passengers who could have potentially delayed the departure.

Terminal 4 will take delivery of the pioneering system in September, and it can be used by all airlines. Kathryn Leahy, director of Terminal 3, said: ‘We are thrilled that the new technology is now live in T3 and will help our passengers have a stress free flight. It also enables us to work with the airlines to improve the punctuality of departing flights.’

Positive boarding is the latest improvement that is being used by passengers throughout the departure process, from checking in via mobile phones, to ‘self-service bag drops’ introduced in November 2012. The self-service bag drop enables passengers to generate and attach their own bag tags before placing their luggage onto the automated bag drop facility.

Heathrow airport releases ‘Food on Fly’ food guide

London Heathrow airport has released its first ever food guide as summer holiday traffic gains momentum.

The guide, named ‘Food on Fly,’ provides a comprehensive overview of the dining options at the UK’s only hub airport. The issue includes reviews of the 73 bars, cafes and restaurants at Heathrow, featuring the top five, and listing the eateries by terminal. There are also top tips available regarding the type of foods to eat or avoid before flying, a run-down of Heathrow’s 15-minute menu policy, and forewords by TV food experts, Gregg Wallace and John Torode.

The food guide has been created in collaboration with Wallace and Torode, who were appointed as the airport’s official food consultants earlier this year.

Copies of ‘Food on the Fly’ are being issued to passengers this week. The issue comes as Heathrow prepares for another record summer with an estimated 13.8 million people expected to use the facility this July and August.

As Heathrow’s official taste buds, Wallace and Torode have tried and tested eateries ‘around the airport in 80 plates’ to understand airport dining options and to help Heathrow to improve its catering. The duo have recommended a renewed emphasis on healthy options, that Heathrow be used as a venue to showcase British cuisine talent, and that more ‘small plates’ be made available for people to enjoy with a beverage. The airport has committed to respond to the suggestions towards the end of the year.

Heathrow’s restaurants and bars receive nearly 26 million orders every year, which include fine dining options such as Gordon Ramsay’s Plane Food, Caviar House and Prunier, Oriel and Rhubarb, as well as high street concepts for travellers including YO! Sushi, Strada and Carluccio’s. Over the last six months, the airport team has been working on 17 new food outlets in Terminal 2, and is set to launch Frae, a British frozen yoghurt specialist, in Terminal 5 for the summer season.

BA’s first A380 superjumbo lands at Heathrow

British Airways has become the first airline in the UK to take delivery of an Airbus A380 superjumbo.

The first of 12 superjumbos ordered by BA, the plane landed at Heathrow airport this morning. BA’s A380 will join 12 daily A380 flights from London Heathrow – two by Qantas, three by Singapore Airlines, two by Malaysia Airlines and five by Emirates.

BA said that that the first long-haul flight on the A380 to Los Angeles will be on September 24, with prices starting from £621 return, and the first to Hong Kong will be on October 22 with prices from £688 return. The planes, the world’s largest passenger planes, can carry 469 passengers each.

BA’s chief executive, Keith Williams, said: ‘The A380 is a fantastic aircraft and an excellent showpiece for British engineering. Our customers are going to love the space, light and comfort on board.’

‘The delivery of these exciting aircraft opens a new chapter in British Airways’ history. We are proud to be leading the way in Europe in operating both these aircraft types,’ he added.

The A380’s arrival follows the delivery of two Boeing Dreamliner aircraft last week. BA is currently spending GBP10bn to upgrade its long-haul fleet. It has also bought six new Boeing 777-300ERs and 18 Airbus A350 aircraft.

‘Over the next 15 months, we will take delivery of new aircraft at the rate of one a fortnight as we put ourselves at the forefront of modern aviation,’ Williams said.

BA is Airbus’ tenth customer. The earlier customers include Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Lufthansa, Korean Air, China Southern, Air France and Thai Airways. Singapore Airlines was the first carrier to operate an A380, operating its first flight in October 2008. Virgin Atlantic is due to take the first of the six A380s it has ordered in 2018.

London’s mayor reacts to Heathrow owners’ dismissal of new airport

The mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has strongly criticised Heathrow Airport Holdings, the owners of Heathrow airport, over its objections to the possibility of a new airport being built in the Thames Estuary to address London’s need for more aviation capacity.

Heathrow’s owner has stated that a third runway on its site would be less expensive and available sooner than a completely new airport, and that a new airport could also result in the closure of Heathrow with thousands of workers forced into redundancy or relocation.

Boris Johnson, a supporter of the new airport option, commented in the Evening Standard on the Heathrow owners’ ‘short termism.’ He said, ‘They say they want a third runway ‘now’ and then maybe a fourth runway ‘later’. Of all the miserable, useless, cynical examples of corporate short-termism and greed, this takes some beating. It would need about 15 to 18 years, with a fair wind and favourable judges, to build a third runway in London’s western suburbs.

‘As soon as a third runway was completed, Heathrow would be clamouring to compete with its continental rivals (to say nothing of Dubai or Mumbai), and we would find ourselves having the same arguments over again, about the need for the fourth runway, but with the position a hundred times worse; with west London jammed with traffic and the skies of the greatest city on earth filled with planes.

‘It is time to end the madness, and back out of the intellectual cul-de-sac. We need to do what all our competitors are doing or have done. We need a 24-hour, four-runway hub airport, preferably to the east of London, so planes can land without causing misery to millions.

‘We need room to expand, and we will never find enough at Heathrow.’ He added: ‘It is utter nonsense to claim that a new airport would mean some kind of economic devastation in west London. On the contrary, Heathrow accounts for about 3 percent of the jobs in what is one of the most dynamic and competitive parts of the UK.

He also said, ‘We face a crippling housing shortage in London – and here is a whole beautiful new borough waiting to be called into being. We are looking at an area the size of Kensington and Chelsea, with the potential for tens of thousands of homes, hi-tech industry, university campuses and, if need be, a vestigial airport.’

‘Yes, the new airport is a big project, and will involve some dislocation, and immense political drive and leadership. But it is infinitely better than desperately pretending we can go on with a third runway at Heathrow, or a second runway at Gatwick, or ‘Heathwick’ or any other half-cock solution.

‘I don’t blame the Heathrow bosses for their short-termism, or for trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes about the real agenda. They have no fiduciary duty to their shareholders – most of whom are overseas – to take account of the quality of life of the people of London or the long-term needs of the UK economy. They are there, like all good business people, to make as much money as they can over a 15-year time horizon – which is as far ahead as businesses can think.

‘We need to think long-term, and think big, about what is in the interests of this city and this country, and the first step to sanity is to reject the third runway at Heathrow.’

Heathrow report says new hub would mean job losses

A report compiled by the owners of Heathrow airport, Heathrow Airport Holdings, has warned of massive job losses if a new airport hub in the Thames Estuary gets the go ahead.

Instead of the alternative airport option, Heathrow’s management is promoting the addition of a third runway at Heathrow; an option that it claims would be ‘cheaper, quicker and better for the economy.’

In support of its claims, the airport has commissioned a report that it intends to present to the UK Aviation Commission, the body that is looking into the options for expanding London’s aviation capacity. In the report, Heathrow warns that building an alternative airport would result in the redundancy or relocation of the 76,000 workers that are currently employed at Heathrow, as the facility would be almost certain to close.

Colin Matthews, the Heathrow chief executive, commented on the possible expansion of Heathrow, saying that it would ‘put Britain ahead in the global race, connecting UK business to growth more quickly and at less cost to the taxpayer than any other option for new capacity.’

He added that the airport was ‘better located for passengers, business and jobs.’

The speed with which Heathrow could benefit from its expansion was also an issue that Matthews cited, saying that it could be in operation 7 years sooner than a completely new airport.

He said, ‘Why build from scratch at a new hub when we can build on the strength that already exists around Heathrow today?’

London’s mayor, Boris Johnson, supports the new airport option.

Dreamliner’s Heathrow return

Boeing’s battle against the problems that have afflicted its 787 Dreamliner aircraft has taken another step forward today with the arrival of the first scheduled flight into London Heathrow airport since the plane was grounded, worldwide, in January.

Doha-based carrier Qatar Airways has virtually repeated its achievement of being the first air carrier to bring the Dreamliner to Heathrow when it was first launched back in December, by being the first to fly it back into the UK’s busiest airport now that safety concerns have been addressed.

The aircraft suffered its international grounding approximately five months ago, following reports by two Japanese airlines that on board batteries were prone to overheating. A lengthy investigation followed, culminating in a solution being found to the problem that satisfied the world’s aviation authorities. Scheduled flights in other parts of the world have already recommenced.

Akbar Al Baker, Qatar Airways chief executive, said, ‘The Doha – Heathrow route is one of our most popular international routes, and so I’m thrilled that our Dreamliners are back in the skies, providing our passengers with an unparalleled level of service and comfort to and from the UK.I have always hailed the Dreamliner as the state-of-the-art aircraft destined to change the way people travel. After a setback that not only affected our own worldwide operations, but those of many carriers worldwide, we look forward to now deploying the Dreamliner on other key routes over the coming weeks.’

Delays in deliveries of the new aircraft caused by its technical difficulties mean that Qatar Airways is currently the only airline that will be operating scheduled Dreamliner flights to Heathrow.

Boeing Dreamliner Heathrow flights to be resumed by Qatar Airways

Qatar Airways, a United Arab Emirates-based airline company, has announced that it will be resuming services to London Heathrow airport with its Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft.

The airline’s service on the London to Doha route is scheduled to recommence from the 15th of this month, after being halted since mid January as part of the worldwide grounding of the 787 Dreamliner, following incidents of the airplane’s on-board battery pack overheating. A solution for the problem has now been accepted by aviation authorities around the world, and with the lifting of the ban on flying, a number of airlines have already undertaken introductory flights. Qatar Airways’ initial flight took place earlier this week between Doha and Dubai.

A full resumption of the daily Doha to Dubai flights is expected, with the service only having operated for approximately one month from its inception in December last year, before being curtailed in January.

Akbar Al Baker, Qatar Airways chief executive, was one of a number of VIP’s that boarded the airlines reinstated Dreamliner for a flight earlier this week, and he said, ‘I’m thrilled our Dreamliner fleet is back in the skies. I always said I would be the first to fly on Qatar Airways’ 787 once it returned to service. After a setback that affected not only our own worldwide operations but also those of many carriers worldwide, we look forward now to deploying the Dreamliner on other key routes over the coming weeks. We have worked closely with Boeing throughout the grounding to work towards getting our fleet up and running again.

Safety has always been the number one priority and I have full confidence in the safety and security of this aircraft.’

Heathrow sales rise with record passenger numbers

Heathrow Ltd, the owner of, Heathrow, the UK’s busiest airport, has recorded an increase in revenue for 2012, part funded by record passenger figures.

The company saw its revenue increase by 8.1 percent in 2012, to £2.46bn. The adjusted pre-tax profit of £46.4m was a turnaround on the previous year’s loss of £166.7m, and was boosted by the arrival of thousands of athletes, officials and supporters for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games last summer. A further statistic that added to the company’s positive year was that the average amount spent by passengers that used the airport shops had risen by 4.4 percent to £5.82.

Colin Matthews, Heathrow’s chief executive, said, ‘2012 was an historic year for Heathrow. We gave a warm welcome and a smooth journey to thousands of Olympic and Paralympic athletes, and greeted a record 70 million passengers over the 12 months. We also achieved record customer satisfaction levels, with three quarters of people saying they had a ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’ experience at Heathrow. Our capital investment programme continued, with over £1 billion spent on improving the airport, mainly on the new Terminal 2, which opens next year. We also completed our refinancing programme, successfully issuing another £3 billion of bonds to put us on a stable, long term financial footing.’

The management at Heathrow Ltd announced last week that it has applied to the CAA to increase its charges to airlines that use the facility over the next few years, to pay for a programme of improvements and upgrades, a move that would almost certainly see an increase in ticket prices for passengers.

Heathrow upgrade at passengers’ expense?

London Heathrow Airport in the UK is planning to invest in upgrades to its facilities that could ultimately impact on passengers’ ticket prices.

According to a Reuters report, the airport’s operator, Heathrow Ltd, which was known until recently as BAA, announced today that it is seeking permission from the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to increase its charges to airlines to use the airport between the years 2014 and 2019. This is to help fund a £3bn, five-year investment plan that includes next year’s opening of the airport’s new Terminal 2, upgraded check-in and baggage facilities, and the development of new stands and taxiways to facilitate the latest aircraft.

The CAA will announce its decision on the proposals in January next year, and a positive decision will see an average per passenger increase in the airlines charges from the current £19.33, to £27.30 by 2018/19. The increase would almost certainly be passed on to passengers, although Heathrow authorities insist that passengers would also see a benefit from the improved facilities.

Colin Matthews, Heathrow’s chief executive, was quoted in the Reuters report, saying, ‘Heathrow faces stiff competition from other European hubs and we must continue to improve the service we offers passengers and airlines.’

However, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, two of the airport’s largest carriers, insist that the facility could be improved without the need to pass on costs to airlines and passengers, with Steve Griffiths, Virgin Atlantic’s chief operating officer, also quoted in the report as saying, ‘In the current economic climate other businesses, in private and public sectors and especially airlines, are making savings and delivering on less money. Airports should not be exempt from that.’