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Heathrow Airport’s new terminal opens to relieve severe congestion

March 27, 2008, London, U.K. - Heathrow Airport's gleaming Terminal 5 opened Thursday, launching operations with an early morning arrival of a flight from Hong Kong.


March 27, 2008
By Gregory Katz

March 27, 2008, London, U.K. – Heathrow Airport's gleaming Terminal 5 opened Thursday,
launching operations with an early morning arrival of a flight from
Hong Kong.

The $8.6 million terminal, able to handle 30 million passengers
per year, will be used exclusively by British Airways, which is
moving many of its flights from the run-down, congested airport's
other terminals to the new building.

Airport operator BAA PLC said the gates freed up by British
Airways' move to Terminal 5 will allow U.S. airlines, including
Continental, Delta, Northwest Airlines and U.S. Airways, to operate
between Heathrow and American cities beginning March 30. In
addition, American Airlines is shifting several of its flights from
London Gatwick to Heathrow, officials said.

Not every passenger was thrilled with the new facility, however.

"It took an hour from the time we landed for our bags to come
through,'' said Mike Salinger, who arrived from Hong Kong on the
second flight into Terminal 5.

A coalition of environmental protesters opposed to the further
expansion of the sprawling airport plans a silent demonstration
inside the terminal building to draw attention to its impact on
climate change and noise pollution. They say they are determined to
halt plans for a third runway at Heathrow.

John Stewart, spokesman for Stop Heathrow Expansion, said the
group does not plan to disrupt the terminal operations or to hold a
rally, which is not allowed at Heathrow. Instead, he said, several
hundred protesters planned to don red T-shirts that say "Stop
airport expansion'' and stand motionless inside the terminal.

"About 800 people have asked for the T-shirts,'' he said. "We're doing it to make the point that Terminal 5 can be used to
bring in up to 100,000 more planes a year even with the existing
runways. That's huge.''

Officials at BAA had planned to begin fingerprinting domestic
passengers and international passengers who transfer to domestic
flights when Terminal 5 opens, but those plans were "temporarily
delayed'' Wednesday after an independent watchdog agency complained.
The Information Commissioner's Office had warned that the
fingerprinting would infringe on the privacy rights of passengers.Instead, photo identification will be used as part of the
security process.

BAA has earmarked $12.4 billion for a series of improvements to
the other terminals during the next decade to make the airport more
attractive to international travellers.

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS