London's Heathrow airport welcomed its first passengers to a £2.5 billion (HK$32.46 billion) terminal today, aiming to avoid the chaos of the last major opening and bolster its case for remaining a major hub.
More than 2,400 passengers had arrived on flights at Terminal 2 as of 12.30pm while 1,800 had checked in for departures. The first flight to use the building, which replaces facilities from the 1950s, was a United Airlines Boeing Co. 767 from Chicago. Flights are initially capped at 10 per cent of capacity to allow time to work out any system snags after the debut of Heathrow's Terminal 5 in 2008 led to a baggage- handling glitch that cost £16 million in expenses and lost revenue.
With undulating ceilings and a plaza-like departure zone, Terminal 2 adds no new capacity and instead will help Heathrow counter the glitz of newer hubs in the Persian Gulf, according to chief executive-designate John Holland-Kaye. The biggest challenge may be a unique experiment in scrapping dedicated check-in desks for the 23 Star Alliance airlines using the building.
"It's never been done before at any airport where you have so many carriers working together to implement common check- in," said Justin Erbacci, the alliance's vice president for customer experience and technology. Moving Star carriers to one terminal from three before will also halve minimum connection times to 60 minutes - if the new system works as planned.