United hopeful of smooth transition at Heathrow T2

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United Airlines is confident the phased approach to switching airlines over to London Heathrow’s new Terminal 2, together with robust testing, should help ensure there is no repeat of the high-profile teething problems that beset the last major new terminal opening at the airport.

Problems with the baggage system marred the high-profile opening of Heathrow’s Terminal 5 in March 2008, resulting in delays and operational chaos at the airport.

United Airlines will in June become the first airline to begin operations from the new Terminal 2. Unlike the Terminal 5 opening, there will be a phased approach to the switch to the new terminal. United will move its 17 daily Heathrow flights from Terminals 1 and 4 on 4 June, but will be the only airline moving into the new terminal that day.

Ultimately it will be joined in Terminal 2 by more than 20 of its Star Alliance partners and Aer Lingus. But Heathrow is allowing six months to move 25 airlines in total. Indeed, during the first three weeks when United is its sole operator, Terminal 2 will be operating at roughly 10% of its capacity.

Star partners Air Canada, All Nippon Airways and Air China will be the next three carriers to switch in late June, followed by Eva Air, Thai Airways and Turkish Airlines and then Aer Lingus and Aegean Airlines in July.

United’s director of airport operations for the UK, Arvind Garcha, says testing has already been under way for component parts of the terminal and that it has just completed its first end-to-end test. “Each time we try something it gives us a confident level that it’s going to be okay from day one. So we are pretty confident.”

The new terminal will feature three waves of passenger check-in processing, beginning with self-service check-in kiosks, followed by bag drops and then conventional check-in desks for those passengers requiring them.