British Airways is just six months away from undertaking one of the industry’s biggest ever relocations, when it will shift more than two-thirds of its operations into the new Terminal 5 (T5) at London Heathrow in one night.

The UK flag carrier’s operations are currently dispersed across Terminals 1, 3 and 4 at Heathrow, and the entire move, which is structured in four phases over a six month period beginning in March, will ultimate see over 90% of services relocated to the new facility. The remaining 8% of flights will be co-located with other Oneworld carriers operating from T3.

BA will undertake the bulk of it on the 26/27 March next year when the infrastructure to support 70% of all its Heathrow flights will move during the night what the airline describes as “4h mass convey”.

During this time, one of Heathrow’s two runways will be closed to enable trucks and staff to move almost the entire T1 operation and all T4 short-haul flights, as well as the existing T3 services, to T5. The only BA flights remaining in T1 then will be the ones set to ultimately relocate to T3.

London Heathrow T5 interior concept

On 27 March, T5’s first arrival will be BA’s 04:55 747-400 service from Hong Kong, while the first departure will be the 06:20 flight to Paris, operated by an Airbus A320 family aircraft.

A month later during the night of 29/30 April, all BA’s T4 long-haul services will relocate to T5 except Australian services (as these will later be moved to T3). In June, the retained T1 services will switch to T3, followed by the remaining T4 services in October.

Once fully up and running, the new terminal will be handling 520 of BA’s 570 daily arrivals and departures, with an annual throughput of around 26 million passengers. T5 will be BA’s exclusive terminal handling all its operations except services linked to Oneworld partners Finnair, Iberia and Qantas, which will operate from T3.

These include long-haul flights to Sydney (which operate via Bangkok? and Singapore) and six short-haul flights (to Belgrade, Barcelona, Helsinki, Lisbon, Madrid and Nice). BA’s 757-200 fleet is being dedicated to its T3 short-haul operation as the aircraft do not have containerised cargo holds like the rest of the airline’s fleet and this will be the standard required for T5.

“Our relocation will spark 54 more airline moves,” says BA, with the transition ultimately resulting in T1 becoming the Star Alliance terminal and T4 allocated Sky Team and others. The demolition of T2 is due to begin in around July next year and it will ultimately be replaced by the new Heathrow East development.

The new terminal was handed over to BA in September for six months of proving trials “to test every single aspect of the building and make sure that it works properly from the day it opens”, says BA.

The airline is already putting “hundreds” of its staff through the terminal each day to familiarise them with the new building, and Heathrow airport operator BAA is recruiting 15,000 volunteers to act as passengers for the trials.

“The first big public trial will be in December when 2,000 volunteers will going through terminal as ‘passengers’,” says BA. Early next year BA aircraft such as a Boeing 747 or 777 will be put onto gates to undertake turn-around testing.

  • See more images of the new Terminal 5 building on AirSpace