London Heathrow Airport

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London Heathrow Airport
Heathrow Logo 2013.svg
Heathrow T5.jpg
Heathrow Terminal 5 building
Airport typePublic
OwnerHeathrow Airport Holdings
OperatorHeathrow Airport Limited
ServesLondon, United Kingdom
LocationLondon Borough of Hillingdon
Hub forBritish Airways
Elevation AMSL83 ft / 25 m
Coordinates51°28′39″N 000°27′41″W / 51.47750°N 0.46139°W / 51.47750; -0.46139Coordinates: 51°28′39″N 000°27′41″W / 51.47750°N 0.46139°W / 51.47750; -0.46139
LHR/EGLL is located in Greater London
Location within Greater London
09L/27R3,90012,795grooved asphalt
09R/27L3,66012,008grooved asphalt
Statistics (2012)
Passengers70,037,417 (Increase 0.9%)
Aircraft movements475,176 (Decrease 1.2%)
Economic impact$16.2 billion[1]
Social impact216.7 thousand[1]
Sources: UK AIP at NATS and EUROCONTROL[2]
Statistics from the UK Civil Aviation Authority[3]
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London Heathrow Airport
Heathrow Logo 2013.svg
Heathrow T5.jpg
Heathrow Terminal 5 building
Airport typePublic
OwnerHeathrow Airport Holdings
OperatorHeathrow Airport Limited
ServesLondon, United Kingdom
LocationLondon Borough of Hillingdon
Hub forBritish Airways
Elevation AMSL83 ft / 25 m
Coordinates51°28′39″N 000°27′41″W / 51.47750°N 0.46139°W / 51.47750; -0.46139Coordinates: 51°28′39″N 000°27′41″W / 51.47750°N 0.46139°W / 51.47750; -0.46139
LHR/EGLL is located in Greater London
Location within Greater London
09L/27R3,90012,795grooved asphalt
09R/27L3,66012,008grooved asphalt
Statistics (2012)
Passengers70,037,417 (Increase 0.9%)
Aircraft movements475,176 (Decrease 1.2%)
Economic impact$16.2 billion[1]
Social impact216.7 thousand[1]
Sources: UK AIP at NATS and EUROCONTROL[2]
Statistics from the UK Civil Aviation Authority[3]

London Heathrow Airport or Heathrow (IATA: LHRICAO: EGLL) is a major international airport serving London, England, known as London Airport from 1946 until 1965. Located in the London Borough of Hillingdon, in West London, Heathrow is the busiest airport in the United Kingdom and the third busiest airport in the world (as of 2012) in total passenger traffic, handling more international passengers than any other airport around the globe.[4] It is also the busiest airport in Europe by passenger traffic and the third busiest by traffic movements, with a figure surpassed only by Charles de Gaulle Airport and Frankfurt Airport.[5] Heathrow is London's main airport, having replaced RAF Northolt and the earlier Croydon Airport. The airport sustains 76,600 jobs directly and around 116,000 indirectly in the immediate area,[6] and this, together with the large number of global corporations with offices close to the airport, makes Heathrow a modern aerotropolis which contributes an estimated 2.7% to London's total GVA.

The airport is owned and operated by Heathrow Airport Holdings, which also owns and operates three other UK airports,[7] and is itself owned by FGP TopCo Limited, an international consortium, which includes Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec and GIC Special Investments, that is led by the Spanish Ferrovial Group.[8] Heathrow is the primary hub for British Airways and the primary operating base for Virgin Atlantic.

Heathrow lies 12 nautical miles (22 km; 14 mi) west[2] of Central London, and has two parallel east–west runways along with four operational terminals on a site that covers 3,000 acres (1,200 ha). Terminal 5 was officially dedicated by Queen Elizabeth II on 14 March 2008 and opened to passengers on 27 March 2008. Construction of a new Terminal 2 complex to replace the old terminal building and adjacent Queen's Building began in 2009 with the first phase expected to open in 2014.[9] Terminals 3 and 4 underwent major refurbishments between 2007 and 2009. In November 2007, a consultation process began for the building of a new third runway and a sixth terminal, which was controversially[10] approved on 15 January 2009 by UK Government ministers.[11] The project was subsequently cancelled on 12 May 2010 by the Cameron Government.[12]

The airport holds a Civil Aviation Authority Public Use Aerodrome Licence (Number P527), which allows flights for public transportation of passengers or for flying instruction.[13]


A Qantas Boeing 747-400 on approach to London Heathrow 27L runway.[14]

Heathrow is 14 mi (23 km) west of central London,[2] near the south end of the London Borough of Hillingdon on a parcel of land that is designated part of the Metropolitan Green Belt. The airport is surrounded by the built-up areas of Harlington, Harmondsworth, Longford and Cranford to the north and by Hounslow and Hatton to the east. To the south lie Bedfont and Stanwell while to the west Heathrow is separated from Colnbrook in Berkshire by the M25 motorway. Heathrow falls entirely under the Hounslow post town of the TW postcode area.

As the airport is west of London and as its runways run east–west, an airliner's landing approach is usually directly over the conurbation of London when the wind is from the west.

Along with Gatwick, Stansted, Luton, Southend and London City, Heathrow is one of six airports with scheduled services serving the London area, although only Heathrow and London City are within Greater London.


For a chronicled history of Heathrow Airport, see History of London Heathrow Airport.

Heathrow Airport started in 1929 as a small airfield (Great West Aerodrome) on land southeast of the hamlet of Heathrow (straddling a road which ran along the east and south edges of the present main terminals area). Development of the whole Heathrow area as a very big airfield started in 1944, stated to be for long-distance military aircraft bound for the far east. However, by the time the airfield was nearing completion, World War II had ended. The government continued to develop the airfield as a civil airport known as London Airport and later Heathrow.

The name 'Heathrow' originates from a local hamlet called 'Heathrow' or 'Heath Row', whose land was mostly farms and market gardens and orchards; there was a 'Heathrow Farm' (approximately where Terminal 1 is now), and a Heathrow Hall and a Heathrow House. Now the name 'Heathrow' is widely known across the world, and occurs in the names of many establishments around the airport, some having no connection with aviation, such as the Heathrow Garden centre in Sipson.

Heathrow today[edit]

Radar tower in Heathrow's central terminal area

Heathrow Airport is used by over 90 airlines flying to 170 destinations worldwide. The airport is the primary hub of British Airways, and is a base for Virgin Atlantic.

Concorde G-BOAB in storage at Heathrow

Of Heathrow's 69 million passengers in 2011, 7% were bound for UK destinations, 41% were short-haul international travellers and 52% were long-haul.[15] The busiest single destination in passenger numbers is New York, with over 3.8 million passengers between Heathrow and JFK / Newark airports in 2011.[16] The airport has four passenger terminals (Terminals 1, 3, 4 and 5) and a cargo terminal. The new passenger Terminal 2 is due to open in 2014, replacing the previous Terminal 2.

In the 1950s, Heathrow had six runways, arranged in three pairs at different angles in the shape of a hexagram with the permanent passenger terminal in the centre and the older terminal along the north edge of the field, and two of its runways would always be within 30° of the wind direction. As the required length for runways has grown, Heathrow now has only two parallel runways running east–west. These are extended versions of the two east-west runways from the original hexagram. From the air, almost all of the original runways can still be seen, incorporated into the present system of taxiways, except for the northernmost point, which has been completely lifted to allow for the enlarged entrance to the access tunnel. The northern apex, of the six pointed star, lay precisely at the point now occupied by Heathrow's unofficial 'gate guardian'. For many years the home of a 40% model of a British Airways Concorde, G-CONC, the site has been occupied by a model of an Emirates Airbus A380 since 2008.[17]

Policing of the airport is the responsibility of the aviation security unit of the Metropolitan Police, although the army, including armoured vehicles of the Household Cavalry, has occasionally been deployed at the airport during periods of heightened security. Heathrow's reputation for thefts has led to its sometimes being referred to as 'Thiefrow'.[18]

Full body scanners are now used at the airport, and passengers who object to their use after being selected are not allowed to fly. These display passengers' bodies as a cartoon-style figure, with indicators showing where concealed items may be.[19] The new imagery was introduced initially as a trial in September 2011 following complaints over privacy.[20]

Heathrow Airport has Anglican, Catholic, free church, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh chaplains. There is a multi-faith prayer room and counselling room in each terminal, in addition to St. George's Interdenominational Chapel in an underground vault adjacent to the old control tower, where Christian services take place. The chaplains organise and lead prayers at certain times in the prayer room.[21]

Heathrow airport has its own resident press corps, consisting of six photographers and one TV crew, serving all the major newspapers and television stations around the world.[22]

Most of Heathrow's internal roads are initial letter coded by area: N in the north (e.g. Newall Road), E in the east (e.g. Elmdon Road), S in the south (e.g. Stratford Road), W in the west (e.g. Walrus Road), C in the centre (e.g. Camborne Road).

The original 1950s red-brick control tower was demolished in early 2013 to enable access roads for the new Terminal 2 to be laid. The Central Terminal Area, as it was named, was designed by Frederick Gibberd and opened in 1955. Air Traffic Control moved to a new control tower in 2007.[23]


Airbridges at Terminal 5

Aircraft destined for Heathrow usually enter its airspace via one of four main reporting points: Bovingdon (BNN) over Hertfordshire, Lambourne (LAM) over Essex, Biggin Hill (BIG) over Bromley and Ockham (OCK) over Surrey.[24] Each is defined by a VOR radio-navigational beacon. When the airport is busy, aircraft orbit in the associated hold patterns. These holding areas lie to the north-west, north-east, south-east and south-west of the London conurbation. Aircraft hold between 7000 feet and 15000 feet at 1000 foot intervals. If these holds become full, aircraft are held at more distant points before being cleared onward to one of the four main holds.

Air traffic controllers at Heathrow Approach Control (based in Swanwick, Hampshire) then guide the aircraft to their final approach, merging aircraft from the four holds into a single stream of traffic, sometimes as close as 2.5 nautical miles (4.6 km; 2.9 mi) apart. Considerable use is made of continuous descent approach techniques to minimise the environmental effects of incoming aircraft, particularly at night.[25] Once an aircraft is established on its final approach, control is handed over to Heathrow Tower.

The centralised waiting area in Terminal 3

When runway alternation was introduced, aircraft generated significantly more noise on departure than when landing, so a preference for westerly operations during daylight was introduced, which continues to this day.[26] In this mode, aircraft depart towards the west and approach from the east over London, thereby minimising the impact of noise on the most densely populated areas. Heathrow's two runways generally operate in segregated mode, whereby arriving aircraft are allocated to one runway and departing aircraft to the other. To further reduce noise nuisance to people beneath the approach and departure routes, the use of runways 27R and 27L is swapped at 15:00 each day if the wind is from the west. When landings are easterly there is no alternation; 09L remains the landing runway and 09R the departure runway due to the legacy of the now rescinded Cranford Agreement, pending taxiway works to allow the roles to be reversed. Occasionally, landings are allowed on the nominated departure runway, to help reduce airborne delays and to position landing aircraft closer to their terminal, reducing taxi times.

Night-time flights at Heathrow are subject to restrictions. Between 23:00 and 07:00, the noisiest aircraft (rated QC/8 and QC/16) cannot be scheduled for operation. In addition, during the night quota period (23:30–06:00) there are four limits:

A trial of "noise relief zones" ran from December 2012 to March 2013, which concentrated approach flight paths into defined areas compared with the existing paths which were spread out. The zones used alternated weekly, meaning residents in the "no-fly" areas received respite from aircraft noise for set periods.[28] However, it was concluded that some residents in other areas experienced a significant disbenefit as a result of the trial and that it should therefore not be taken forward in its current form.


British Airways Boeing 747-400s at Terminal 5

Until it was required to sell Gatwick and Stansted Airports, Heathrow Airport Holdings held a dominant position in the London aviation market, and has been heavily regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) as to how much it can charges airline to land. The annual increase in landing charge per passenger was capped at inflation minus 3% until 1 April 2003. From 2003 to 2007 charges increased by inflation plus 6.5% per year, taking the fee to £9.28 per passenger in 2007. In March 2008, the CAA announced that the charge would be allowed to increase by 23.5% to £12.80 from 1 April 2008, and by inflation plus 7.5% for each of the following four years.[29] In April 2013, the CAA announced a proposal for Heathrow to charge fees calculated by inflation minus 1.3%, continuing until 2019.[30] Whilst the cost of landing at Heathrow is determined by the CAA and BAA (renamed Heathrow Airport Holdings in 2012), the allocation of landing slots to airlines is carried out by Airport Co-ordination Limited (ACL).[31]

Until 2008, air traffic between Heathrow and the United States was strictly governed by the countries' bilateral Bermuda II treaty. The treaty originally allowed only British Airways, Pan Am and TWA to fly from Heathrow to the US. In 1991, PAA and TWA sold their rights to United Airlines and American Airlines respectively, while Virgin Atlantic was added to the list of airlines allowed to operate on these routes. The Bermuda bilateral agreement conflicted with the Right of Establishment of the United Kingdom in relation to its EU membership, and as a consequence the UK was ordered to drop the agreement in 2004. A new "open skies" agreement was signed by the United States and the European Union on 30 April 2007 and came into effect on 30 March 2008. Since then, additional US Airlines including Continental (now United Airlines), US Airways and Delta have started services to Heathrow.

The airport has been criticised in recent years for overcrowding and delays;[32] according to Heathrow Airport Holdings, Heathrow's facilities were originally designed to accommodate 55 million passengers annually. The number of passengers using the airport reached a record 70 million in 2012.[33] In 2007 the airport was voted the world's least favourite, alongside Chicago O'Hare in a TripAdvisor survey.[34] However, the opening of Terminal 5 in 2008 has relieved some pressure on terminal facilities, increasing the airport's terminal capacity to 90 million passengers per year. A tie-up is also in place with McLaren Applied Technologies to optimise the general procedure, reducing delays and pollution.[35]

With only two runways, operating at over 98% of their capacity, Heathrow has little room for more flights, although the increasing use of larger aircraft such as the Airbus A380 will allow some increase in passenger numbers. It is difficult for existing airlines to obtain landing slots to enable them to increase their services from the airport, or for new airlines to start operations.[36] In order to increase the number of flights, Heathrow Airport Holdings has proposed using the existing two runways in 'mixed mode' whereby aircraft would be allowed to take off and land on the same runway. This would increase the airport's capacity from its current 480,000 movements per year to as many as 550,000 according to British Airways CEO Willie Walsh.[37] Heathrow Airport Holdings has also proposed building a third runway to the north of the airport, which would have significantly increased traffic capacity (see Future expansion below).[38]


Terminal 1[edit]

Terminal 1 opened in 1968 and was formally inaugurated by Queen Elizabeth II in May 1969.[39] Before Terminal 5 opened, Terminal 1 was the base for British Airways' domestic network from Heathrow and for a few of its long haul routes.

In 2005, a substantial redesign and redevelopment of the terminal saw the opening of the new Eastern Extension, doubling the size of the departure lounge and creating additional seating as well as retail space. With an area of 74,601 m2 (803,000 sq ft) 2, the terminal is home to Ireland's Aer Lingus, and several Star Alliance airlines. Since the buyout of British Midland International, British Airways serves some short-haul and medium-haul destinations from this terminal. Some of the newer boarding gates used by airlines present in Terminal 1 are numbered in Terminal 2 (i.e. gate 2xx instead of gate 1xx). Those recently built gates will be retained as part of the new Terminal 2 after Terminal 2 officially opens. A temporary connector is in place between the older Terminal 1 and the new gates.

Terminal 1 will be closed by the end of 2016 once all airlines have moved to other Heathrow terminals, following the opening of T2 in June 2014.

Terminal 2 (under construction)[edit]

Main Terminal 2 building under construction, September 2011

Heathrow's current major project is the construction of a vast new Terminal 2 on the site of the original Terminal 2 and the Queen's Building. Formerly known as Heathrow East Terminal, the whole project will occupy a site similar in size to that of Terminal 5. Terminal 2 is expected to be completed in November 2013 and will be followed by 6 months of testing. It is scheduled to open on 4 June 2014[40] with the arrival of a United Airlines flight from Chicago at 05:55. It will be used by all 23 Star Alliance members currently operating at Heathrow, Aer Lingus, Little Red (Virgin Atlantic's domestic operations) and Germanwings. The airlines will move from their current terminals in phases over a period of six months with only 10% of flights operating in the first 3 weeks to avoid the opening challenges witnessed at Terminal 5. The project includes the main Terminal 2 building, a 522-metre satellite pier (T2B), a 1,340 space car park and an energy centre and cooling station. Passengers will be able to choose from a selection of 52 shops and 17 bars and restaurants.[41]

The building will replace the original Terminal 2, which was the airport's oldest terminal. It opened as the Europa Building in 1955, and had an area of 49,654m2. Originally the terminal was designed to handle around 1.2 million passengers annually; in its final years of operation it often accommodated around 8 million. A total of 316 million passengers passed through the terminal in its lifetime. The terminal was demolished in 2010,[42] and the site was combined with that of the Queen's Building to form the site under development.

Terminal 3[edit]

Terminal 3 bird's-eye view

Terminal 3 opened as The Oceanic Terminal on 13 November 1961 to handle flight departures for long-haul routes.[43] At this time the airport had a direct helicopter service to Central London from the gardens on the roof of the terminal building. Renamed Terminal 3 in 1968, it was expanded in 1970 with the addition of an arrivals building. Other facilities added included the UK's first moving walkways. In 2006, the new £105 million Pier 6 was completed[44] to accommodate the Airbus A380 superjumbo; Singapore Airlines, Emirates and Qantas now operate regular flights from Terminal 3 using the Airbus A380. These three airlines have nearly a dozen daily A380 flights. Redevelopment of Terminal 3's forecourt through the addition of a new four lane drop-off area and a large pedestrianised plaza, complete with canopy to the front of the terminal building, was completed in 2007. These improvements were intended to improve passengers' experiences, reduce traffic congestion and improve security. As part of this project, Virgin Atlantic was assigned its own dedicated check-in area, known as 'Zone A', which features a large sculpture and atrium. Heathrow Airport Holdings also has plans for a £1bn upgrade of the rest of the terminal over the next ten years[when?] which will include the renovation of aircraft piers and the arrivals forecourt. A new baggage system connecting to Terminal 5 (for British Airways connections) is under construction. In addition to the baggage system, the baggage claim hall is also set to undergo changes with dedicated A380 belts and an improved design and layout.[45]

As of 2013, Terminal 3 has an area of 98,962 m2 (1,065,220 sq ft) and in 2011 handled 19.8 million passengers on 104,100 flights.[46]

Terminal 4[edit]

Terminal 4 bird's-eye view

Opened in 1986, Terminal 4 is situated to the south of the southern runway next to the cargo terminal and is connected to Terminals 1, 2 and 3 by the Heathrow Cargo Tunnel. The terminal has an area of 105,481 m2 (1,135,390 sq ft) and is now home to the SkyTeam alliance, as well as some unaffiliated carriers. It has recently undergone a £200m upgrade to enable it to accommodate 45 airlines with an upgraded forecourt to reduce traffic congestion and improve security. An extended check-in area with renovated piers and departure lounges, a new baggage system installed as well as the construction of two new stands to accommodate the Airbus A380 with Malaysia Airlines operating regular A380 flights.[47]

Terminal 5[edit]

Terminal 5 bird's-eye view

Terminal 5 lies between the northern and southern runways at the west end of the Heathrow site and was opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 14 March 2008,[48] some 19 years after its inception. It opened to the public on 27 March 2008. The first passenger to enter Terminal 5 was a UK ex-pat from Kenya who passed through security at 04:30 on the day to be presented with a boarding pass by the British Airways CEO Willie Walsh for the first departing flight, BA302 to Paris. During the two weeks after its opening, operations were disrupted by problems with the terminal's IT systems, coupled with insufficient testing and staff training, which caused over 500 flights to be cancelled.[49] Until March 2012, Terminal 5 was exclusively used by British Airways as its global hub; however, because of the merger, on 25 March Iberia's operations at Heathrow were moved to the terminal, making it the home of International Airlines Group.

Built at a cost of £4.3 billion, the new terminal consists of a four storey main terminal building (Concourse A) and two satellite buildings linked to the main terminal by an underground people mover transit system. The second satellite (Concourse C), includes dedicated aircraft stands for the Airbus A380. It became fully operational on 1 June 2011.

The main terminal building (Concourse A) has an area of 300,000 square metres (3,200,000 sq ft) while Concourse B covers 60,000 square metres (650,000 sq ft).[50] It has 60 aircraft stands and capacity for 30 million passengers annually as well as more than 100 shops and restaurants.[51]

A further building, designated Concourse D and of similar size to Concourse C, may yet be built to the East of the existing site, providing up to another 16 stands. Following British Airways' merger with Iberia, this may become a priority since the newly combined business will require accommodation at Heathrow under one roof to maximise the cost savings envisaged under the deal. A proposal for Concourse D featured in Heathrow's most recent capital investment plan.

The transport network around the airport has been extended to cope with the increase in passenger numbers. A dedicated motorway spur links the M25 between junctions 14 and 15 to the terminal, which includes a 3,800 space multi-storey car park. A more distant long-stay car park for business passengers is connected to the terminal by a personal rapid transit system, which became operational in Spring 2011.[52] New branches of both the Heathrow Express and the Underground's Piccadilly Line serve a new shared Heathrow Terminal 5 station.

Cargo terminal[edit]

Heathrow's cargo terminal is located south of the runways, towards the west. It was built in or soon before 1968.[when?] The Cargo Tunnel connects it to Terminals 1, 2 and 3, with the Western Tug Road connecting it to Terminal 5. Stands 607, 608 & 609, as well as the 'Zulu' cul de sac, are the main areas used for the dedicated cargo flights.

In 1948 (see map) the area was still farm or market garden land around Eglantine Cottage.

Olympics 2012[edit]

To accommodate the rush of about 7,000 athletes and their non-competing followers leaving when the 2012 Olympics ended, a temporary new terminal was built on a staff car park. Described as being "the area of 3 Olympic sized swimming pools", it seemed to be made of plastic sheeting on metal posts. Construction started in February 2012. After check-in the passengers were bussed to departures of the permanent terminals where their flights were to depart from.[53][54] Some of their luggage was checked in at their hotels.

Airlines and destinations[edit]


Aer Lingus Airbus A320 landing at Heathrow Airport.
Air Canada Airbus A330-300 landing at Heathrow Airport.
Biman Bangladesh Airlines Boeing 777-300ER approaching Heathrow Airport.
British Airways Boeing 747-400 takeoff from Heathrow Airport.
British Airways Boeing 777-300ER push-back at Heathrow Airport.
Emirates Boeing 777-300 taxiing at Heathrow Airport.
Iberia Airbus A320 taxiing at Heathrow Airport, with a Qantas Airbus A380 in the background.
An El Al Boeing 777-200ER approaching London Heathrow Airport
Kenya Airways Boeing 777-200ER landing at Heathrow Airport.
Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 taxiing at Heathrow Airport.
Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747-400 taxiing at Heathrow Airport.
Malaysia Airlines Airbus A380 departing Heathrow Airport.
Aegean AirlinesAthens1
Aer LingusBelfast-City, Cork, Dublin, Shannon1
AeroméxicoMexico City4
Air AlgérieAlgiers4
Air AstanaAlmaty, Astana[55]4
Air CanadaCalgary, Halifax, Montréal-Trudeau, Ottawa, Toronto-Pearson, Vancouver
Seasonal: Edmonton,[56] St. John's
Air ChinaBeijing-Capital3
Air FranceParis-Charles de Gaulle4
Air IndiaDelhi, Mumbai4
Air MaltaMalta4
Air MauritiusMauritius4
Air New ZealandAuckland, Los Angeles1
Air SerbiaBelgrade4
AlitaliaMilan-Linate, Rome-Fiumicino4
All Nippon AirwaysTokyo-Haneda (begins 30 March 2014),[57] Tokyo-Narita (ends 29 March 2014)[57]3
American AirlinesChicago-O'Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles, Miami, New York-JFK, Raleigh/Durham3
Arik AirLagos4
Asiana AirlinesSeoul-Incheon1
Austrian Airlines
operated by Tyrolean Airways
Azerbaijan AirlinesBaku4
Biman Bangladesh AirlinesDhaka, Sylhet4
British AirwaysAmman-Queen Alia, Baku, Beirut, Belfast-City, Cairo, Dublin, Hanover, Luxembourg, Lyon, Marseille, Rotterdam/The Hague, Tel Aviv-Ben Gurion1
British AirwaysBudapest, Gibraltar, Helsinki, Lisbon, Prague, Vienna, Warsaw-Chopin3
British AirwaysAberdeen, Abu Dhabi, Abuja, Accra, Agadir, Alicante, Almaty, Amsterdam, Athens, Atlanta, Austin (begins 3 March 2014),[58] Bahrain, Baltimore, Belfast, Bangalore, Bangkok-Suvarnabhumi, Barcelona, Basel/Mulhouse, Beijing-Capital, Bergen, Berlin-Tegel, Bologna, Boston, Brussels, Bucharest-Otopeni, Buenos Aires-Ezeiza, Calgary, Cape Town, Chengdu, Chennai, Chicago-O'Hare, Copenhagen, Dallas/Fort Worth, Delhi, Denver, Doha, Dubai-International, Düsseldorf, Edinburgh, Entebbe, Frankfurt, Freetown, Geneva, Glasgow, Gothenburg-Landvetter, Grand Cayman, Hamburg, Hong Kong, Houston-Intercontinental, Hyderabad, Ibiza, Istanbul-Atatürk, Jeddah, Johannesburg-Tambo, Kiev-Boryspil, Kuwait, Lagos, Larnaca, Las Vegas, Leeds/Bradford, Los Angeles, Luanda, Madrid, Manchester, Marrakech, Mexico City, Miami, Milan-Linate, Milan-Malpensa, Monrovia, Montreal-Trudeau, Moscow-Domodedovo, Mumbai, Munich, Muscat, Nairobi-Kenyatta, Nassau, New York-JFK, Newark, Newcastle upon Tyne, Nice, Oslo-Gardermoen, Palma de Mallorca, Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Paris-Orly, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pisa, Porto (begins 30 March 2014), Providenciales, Rio de Janeiro-Galeão, Riyadh, Rome-Fiumicino, St Petersburg, San Diego, San Francisco, São Paulo-Guarulhos, Seattle/Tacoma, Seoul-Incheon, Shanghai-Pudong, Singapore, Sofia, Stavanger, Stockholm Arlanda, Stuttgart, Sydney, Tokyo-Haneda, Tokyo-Narita, Toronto-Pearson, Toulouse, Tripoli, Vancouver, Venice-Marco Polo, Washington-Dulles, Zagreb, Zürich
Seasonal: Faro (begins 30 March 2014), Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Malaga (resumes 30 March 2014), Mykonos (begins 3 May 2014), Santorini (begins 4 May 2014)[59]
Brussels AirlinesBrussels1
Bulgaria AirSofia4
Cathay PacificHong Kong3
China Eastern AirlinesShanghai-Pudong4
China Southern AirlinesGuangzhou4
Croatia AirlinesZagreb
Seasonal: Rijeka, Split
Cyprus AirwaysLarnaca1
Delta Air LinesAtlanta, Boston, Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York-JFK, Seattle/Tacoma (begins 30 March 2014)[60]4
EgyptAirCairo, Luxor3
El AlTel Aviv-Ben Gurion1
Ethiopian AirlinesAddis Ababa3
Etihad AirwaysAbu Dhabi4
EVA AirBangkok-Suvarnabhumi, Taipei-Taoyuan3
GermanwingsBerlin-Tegel (begins 13 January 2014), Cologne/Bonn, Hamburg (begins 13 January 2014), Stuttgart1
Gulf AirBahrain4
Iran AirTehran-Imam Khomeini3
Japan AirlinesTokyo-Narita3
Jet AirwaysDelhi, Mumbai4
Kenya AirwaysNairobi-Kenyatta4
operated by KLM Cityhopper
Korean AirSeoul-Incheon4
Kuwait AirwaysKuwait, New York-JFK4
Libyan AirlinesTripoli4
LOT Polish AirlinesWarsaw-Chopin1
LufthansaBerlin-Tegel (ends 12 January 2014), Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg (ends 12 January 2014), Munich1
Malaysia AirlinesKuala Lumpur4
Middle East AirlinesBeirut3
Oman AirMuscat3
Pakistan International AirlinesIslamabad, Karachi, Lahore3
Philippine AirlinesManila[61]4
QantasDubai-International, Melbourne, Sydney3
Qatar AirwaysDoha4
Royal Air MarocCasablanca, Marrakech, Tangier4
Royal Brunei AirlinesBandar Seri Begawan, Dubai-International4
Royal JordanianAmman-Queen Alia3
SaudiaJeddah, Riyadh
Seasonal: Medina
Scandinavian AirlinesBergen, Copenhagen, Gothenburg-Landvetter, Oslo-Gardermoen, Stavanger, Stockholm-Arlanda3
Singapore AirlinesSingapore3
South African AirwaysJohannesburg1
SriLankan AirlinesColombo4
Swiss International Air LinesGeneva, Zürich1
TAM AirlinesRio de Janeiro-Galeão, São Paulo-Guarulhos1
TAP PortugalLisbon
Seasonal: Funchal
Thai AirwaysBangkok-Suvarnabhumi3
Transaero AirlinesMoscow-Vnukovo1
Turkish AirlinesIstanbul-Atatürk3
Turkmenistan AirlinesAshgabat3
United AirlinesChicago-O'Hare, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington-Dulles1
United AirlinesHouston-Intercontinental, Newark4
US AirwaysCharlotte, Philadelphia1
Uzbekistan AirwaysTashkent4
Virgin AtlanticBoston, Delhi, Dubai-International, Hong Kong, Johannesburg-Tambo, Lagos, Los Angeles, Miami, Mumbai, New York-JFK, Newark, San Francisco, Shanghai-Pudong, Sydney, Tokyo-Narita, Washington-Dulles
Seasonal: Cape Town, Chicago-O'Hare, Vancouver
Virgin Atlantic
operated by Aer Lingus
Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Manchester1
VuelingA Coruña, Bilbao, Florence (ends 29 March 2014)3

Terminal moves and rearrangements[edit]

Current terminal assignments

Following the opening of Terminal 5 in March 2008, a hugely complex programme of terminal moves was implemented. This saw many airlines move so as to be grouped in terminals by airline alliance as far as possible.[62] However, the process was complicated by the acquisition of Star Alliance member BMI by Oneworld member British Airways, the transfer of Continental Airlines from SkyTeam to Star Alliance prior to its merger with United Airlines, and formerly non-aligned carriers such as EVA Air and Malaysia Airlines joining alliances. As of November 2013, the terminals are assigned to airline alliances as follows:

Non-aligned airlines operate from Terminals 1, 3 and 4. Virgin Atlantic's domestic flights operate from Terminal 1.

Scheduled terminal moves

Delta Air Lines will move services to certain destinations from Terminal 4 to Terminal 3 from 2 April 2014, in order to be located with their partners, Virgin Atlantic.[64] When Phase 1 of the new Terminal 2 opens (expected to be 4 June 2014), all Star Alliance member airlines (along with Aer Lingus, El Al and Virgin Atlantic domestic flights) will relocate there in a gradual process, beginning with United Airlines. All British Airways services will be moved to Terminals 3 and 5. Terminal 1 will then be gradually demolished to make way for Phase 2 of the new Terminal 2, with all airlines operating from Terminal 1 moving to other terminals.

Upon completion

Once the moves are complete the terminal assignments are expected to be as follows:

Countries served by flights from London Heathrow Airport (includes seasonal and future destinations).


Cathay Pacific Cargo Boeing 747-400F taxiing at Heathrow Airport.
DHL Air Airbus A300F taxiing at Heathrow Airport.
British Airways World CargoAbu Dhabi, Amsterdam, Atlanta, Bangkok-Suvarnabhumi, Beijing-Capital, Brussels, Budapest, Cairo, Chennai, Chicago-O'Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth, Delhi, Dubai, Frankfurt, Glasgow-Prestwick, Hong Kong, İstanbul, Johannesburg, Manchester (UK), Mexico City, Milan-Malpensa, Moscow-Sheremetyevo, Mumbai, Paris-Charles de Gaulle, São Paulo-Guarulhos, Seoul-Incheon, Singapore, Sofia, Sydney, Taipei-Taoyuan, Toronto-Pearson
Cathay Pacific CargoDelhi, Hong Kong, Milan-Malpensa, Paris-Charles de Gaulle
DHL AviationAmsterdam, Brussels, East Midlands, Frankfurt, Madrid, Paris-Charles de Gaulle
Emirates SkyCargoDubai
Etihad Crystal CargoAbu Dhabi, Frankfurt
Ethiopian Airlines CargoLagos
EVA Air CargoBangkok-Suvarnabhumi, Dubai, Taipei-Taoyuan
Korean Air CargoSeoul-Incheon
MASkargoKuala Lumpur
Royal Air Maroc CargoCasablanca
Royal Jordanian CargoAmman-Queen Alia
Singapore Airlines CargoCopenhagen, Sharjah, Singapore
Swiss WorldCargoZürich
Turkish Airlines Cargoİstanbul

Other facilities[edit]

Compass Centre, when it was a British Airways facility

The head office of Heathrow Airport Holdings (formerly BAA Limited) is located in the Compass Centre by Heathrow's northern runway, a building that previously served as a British Airways flight crew centre.[66] The World Business Centre Heathrow consists of buildings one and two. 1 World Business Centre houses offices of Heathrow Airport Holdings, Heathrow Airport itself, and Scandinavian Airlines.[67] International Airlines Group has its head office in 2 World Business Centre.[68][69]

At one time the British Airways head office was located within Heathrow Airport at Speedbird House[70] before the completion of Waterside, the current BA head office in Harmondsworth, in June 1998.[71]

To the north of the airfield lies the Northern Perimeter Road, along which most of Heathrow’s car rental agencies are based, and Bath Road, which runs parallel to it, but outside the airport campus - this is nicknamed by locals as “The Strip” owing to its continuous line of airport hotels.

Traffic and statistics[edit]

Development of passenger numbers, aircraft movements and air freight between 1986 and 2012

Although Heathrow Airport Holdings claims that Heathrow is the "world's busiest international airport",[15] in 2011 it ranked third-busiest by total passenger traffic, after Atlanta and Beijing which are both international airports. However, Heathrow does have the highest number of international passengers.

In 2011, Heathrow was the busiest airport in Europe in total passenger traffic,[3] with 13.9% more passengers than Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport[72] and 23.0% more than Frankfurt Airport,[73] However, it was in second place behind Charles de Gaulle in total aircraft movements in 2011 with 5.1% fewer landings and take offs than its French counterpart.[72] Heathrow was the third busiest European airport by cargo traffic in 2010, after Paris Charles de Gaulle and Frankfurt.[74]

Busiest international routes[edit]

Busiest international routes to and from Heathrow Airport (2012)[75]
RankAirportPassengers handled % Change
2011 / 12
1United StatesNew York-JFK2,839,007Increase 6.0
2Flag of the United Arab Emirates.svg Dubai1,959,169Increase 3.7
3Flag of Ireland.svg Dublin1,577,649Increase 1.4
4Flag of Germany.svg Frankfurt1,482,459Increase 0.9
5Flag of the Netherlands.svg Amsterdam1,429,800Increase 1.6
6Flag of Hong Kong.svg Hong Kong1,387,036Decrease 1.8
7United StatesLos Angeles1,304,076Increase 0.4
8Flag of Turkey.svg Istanbul1,267,378Increase 3.1
9Flag of Spain.svg Madrid1,197,825Increase 0.6
10United StatesChicago-O'Hare1,188,005Decrease 1.6
11United StatesNewark1,167,792Decrease 2.5
12Flag of France.svg Paris-CDG1,167,557Decrease 8.2
13Flag of Singapore.svg Singapore1,167,226Increase 9.1
14Flag of Norway.svg Oslo-Gardermoen1,110,398Increase 1.8
15Flag of Italy.svg Rome-Fiumicino1,037,310Decrease 1.5
16United StatesMiami1,031,276Increase 8.1
16Flag of Switzerland.svg Zürich1,011,799Increase 5.6
17United StatesBoston996,648Decrease 3.3
18United StatesSan Francisco965,712Increase 4.3
19Flag of Denmark.svg Copenhagen957,538Increase 2.0
20Flag of Switzerland.svg Geneva955,215Decrease 2.3
21United StatesWashington-Dulles953,954Decrease 3.5
22Flag of Canada.svg Toronto-Pearson951,078Increase 2.7
23Flag of India.svg Delhi918,860Decrease 8.4
24Flag of India.svg Mumbai891,607Decrease 6.2
25Flag of Sweden.svg Stockholm876,446Decrease 1.5
27Flag of South Africa.svg Johannesburg862,348Increase 2.6
28Flag of Qatar.svg Doha804,777Increase 18.2
29Flag of Austria.svg Vienna794,227Increase 2.0
30Flag of Italy.svg Milan-Linate748,236Increase 2.0
31Flag of Spain.svg Barcelona737,617Increase 3.9
32Flag of Portugal.svg Lisbon731,566Decrease 1.9
33Flag of Greece.svg Athens680,472Decrease 7.5
34Flag of Germany.svg Berlin-Tegel670,835Decrease 3.4
35Flag of Germany.svg Munich665,557Increase 5.8
36Flag of Japan.svg Tokyo-Narita648,000Increase 7.3
37United StatesDallas-Fort Worth638,793Increase 14.6
38Flag of Thailand.svg Bangkok-Suvarnabhumi636,840Increase 10.0
39Flag of Germany.svg Düsseldorf623,043Increase 3.2
40Flag of Israel.svg Tel Aviv592,078Increase 6.2
41Flag of the United Arab Emirates.svg Abu Dhabi587,810Increase 1.7
42United StatesHouston-Intercontinental554,385Decrease 0.2
43Flag of Finland.svg Helsinki552,193Decrease 6.7
44Flag of France.svg Nice548,190Increase 2.0
45Flag of Australia.svg Sydney547,707Decrease 21.5
46Flag of Belgium.svg Brussels547,617Increase 6.0
47Flag of Canada.svg Vancouver535,415Increase 8.5
48Flag of Germany.svg Hamburg532,612Increase 5.5
49Flag of Russia.svg Moscow-Domodedovo531,432Increase 3.9
50Flag of Nigeria.svg Lagos491,119Increase 3.2
51Flag of Malaysia.svg Kuala Lumpur486,393Increase 12.3
52Flag of South Africa.svg Cape Town452,770Decrease 8.1
53United StatesAtlanta452,136Increase 28.5
54Flag of Egypt.svg Cairo450,452Increase 1.0
55Flag of Cyprus.svg Larnaca413,787Decrease 7.0
56Flag of Kenya.svg Nairobi413,751Decrease 16.2
57Flag of Brazil.svg São Paulo413,291Increase 11.4
58Czech Republic Prague402,040Increase 19.1
59Flag of Norway.svg Bergen-Flesland384,457Decrease 3.1
60Flag of Norway.svg Stavanger-Sola384,137Decrease 3.0

Busiest domestic routes[edit]

Busiest domestic and British overseas routes to and from Heathrow Airport (2012)[75]
RankAirportPassengers handled % Change 2011 / 12
1Edinburgh1,254,993Decrease 1.3
2Glasgow-International828,531Increase 0.9
3Manchester792,831Increase 3.4
4Aberdeen663,809Increase 1.7
5Belfast-City499,215Increase 16.5
6Newcastle489,726Increase 3.4
7Belfast-International191,463Decrease 33.8
8Gibraltar95,423Increase 9.5

Annual passenger numbers[edit]

Passenger numbers at Heathrow[76]
handled[nb 1]
% Change
% Change
% Change
198735,079,755Increase10.7574,116Increase6.9329,977Increase 4.3
198837,840,503Increase7.9642,147Increase11.8351,592Increase 6.1
198939,881,922Increase5.4686,170Increase6.9368,429Increase 4.6
199042,950,512Increase7.7695,347Increase1.3390,372Increase 5.6
199140,494,575Decrease5.7654,625Decrease5.9381,724Decrease 2.3
199245,242,591Increase11.7754,770Increase15.3406,481Increase 6.1
199347,899,081Increase5.9846,486Increase12.2411,173Increase 1.1
199451,713,366Increase8.0962,738Increase13.7424,557Increase 3.2
199554,461,597Increase5.31,031,639Increase7.2434,525Increase 2.3
199656,049,706Increase2.91,040,486Increase0.9440,343Increase 1.3
199758,185,398Increase3.81,156,104Increase11.1440,631Increase 0.1
199860,683,988Increase4.31,208,893Increase4.6451,382Increase 2.4
199962,268,292Increase2.61,265,495Increase4.7458,300Increase 1.5
200064,618,254Increase3.81,306,905Increase3.3466,799Increase 1.8
200160,764,924Decrease6.01,180,306Decrease9.6463,567Decrease 0.7
200263,362,097Increase4.31,234,940Increase4.6466,545Increase 0.6
200363,495,367Increase0.21,223,439Decrease0.9463,650Decrease 0.6
200467,342,743Increase6.11,325,173Increase8.3476,001Increase 2.6
200567,913,153Increase0.81,305,686Decrease1.5477,887Increase 0.4
200667,527,923Decrease0.61,264,129Decrease3.2477,048Decrease 0.2
200768,066,028Increase0.81,310,987Increase3.7481,476Increase 0.9
200867,054,745Decrease1.51,397,054Increase6.6478,693Decrease 0.6
200966,036,957Decrease1.51,277,650Decrease8.5466,393Decrease 2.6
201065,881,660Decrease0.21,472,988Increase15.3454,823Decrease 2.5
201169,433,230Increase5.41,484,351Increase0.8480,906Increase 5.4
201270,037,417Increase0.91,464,390Decrease1.3475,176Decrease 1.2

Countries with most passengers to Heathrow[edit]

Countries with maximum passengers to/from Heathrow (2010)[citation needed]
Passengers handled
% Change
2009 / 10
1 United States12,340,933Increase0.03
2 Germany4,341,214Increase7.57
3 Italy2,377,026Increase12.00
4 Canada2,354,965Decrease4.07
5 United Arab Emirates2,291,338Increase0.91
6 India2,283,731Decrease3.22
7 Ireland2,156,503Decrease3.77
8 Turkey2,142,910Increase7.86
9 France2,138,519Decrease1.81
10 Spain2,127,872Decrease5.24
11  Switzerland1,896,859Increase14.47
12 Hong Kong1,386,779Decrease9.29
13 South Africa1,378,268Decrease6.95
14 Netherlands1,333,124Decrease11.70
15 Sweden1,058,134Increase2.01
16 Australia1,030,619Decrease1.34
17 Singapore1,022,220Decrease9.01
18 Denmark870,104Increase1.90
19 Russia747,425Increase13.93
20 Portugal746,946Decrease2.78


Public transport[edit]


Heathrow Express train at Paddington station
Heathrow area rail services
London Paddington National Rail London Underground
Heathrow Connect
Heathrow Express
Central Central Line and District District Line lines
Ealing Broadway National Rail London Underground
West Ealing National Rail
Hanwell National Rail
Southall National Rail
Hayes and Harlington National Rail
Airport Junction
Great Western Main Line
Slough and Reading
Heathrow Junctionclosed 1998
Piccadilly Line Piccadilly Line
Hatton Cross London Underground
BSicon FLUG.svg Heathrow Airport
Terminals 1,2,3 London Underground & Central Airport interchange
Terminal 4Shuttle Airport interchange
Terminal 4 London Underground Airport interchange
Terminal 5Heathrow Express London Underground Airport interchange

Bus and coach[edit]

Many buses and coaches operate from the large Heathrow airport central bus station serving Terminals 1 and 3, and also from bus stations at Terminals 4 and 5. Services include the following:

Between 1981 and 2004, the airport was linked to central London by a group of routes known as Airbus. These routes carried A prefixes before their numbers; one route, A10, operates with such a number to Uxbridge.

Inter-terminal transport[edit]

Terminals 1 and 3 are within walking distance of each other. Transfers to Terminal 4 and 5 are by Heathrow Express trains or bus. Heathrow Express and Heathrow Connect services between Heathrow Central and Terminals 4 and 5 are free of charge.[82] Normal fare rules apply to London Underground services between terminals. Local buses throughout the airport area are provided free of charge under the "Heathrow FreeFlow" scheme;[83] passengers should tell the driver their destination to ensure they are not charged a fare.

Transit passengers remaining airside are provided free dedicated transfer buses between terminals.

ULTra Personal Rapid Transport has been opened in April 2011 to shuttle passengers to and from Terminal 5 at a speed of up to 40 km/h (25 mph). The initial trial will have 18 pods running. ULTra are small transportation pods that can fit four adults, two children, and their luggage and will be able to carry passengers directly to the terminal. The pods are battery powered and will be initially used on a four kilometre track. If the trial is successful there are plans for a roll out airport-wide. The capsules run on demand. The provider claims a 95% availability rate and no accidents so far.[84]


Taxis are available at all terminals.[85]


Entrance at the southern end of the M4 Motorway, showing a scale model of Concorde, there in 2006 but since replaced with the Emirates A380 scale model.

Heathrow is accessible via the nearby M4 motorway and A4 road (Terminals 1–3), the M25 motorway (Terminals 4 and 5), and the A30 road (Terminal 4). There are drop off and pick up areas at all terminals and short[86] and long stay[87] multi-storey car parks. Additionally, there are car parks not run by Heathrow Airport Holdings just outside the airport, the most recognisable is the National Car Parks facility although there are many other options; these car parks are connected to the terminals by shuttle buses.

Four parallel tunnels under one of the runways connect the M4 motorway and the A4 road to Terminals 1–3. The two larger tunnels are each two lanes wide and are used for motorised traffic. The two smaller tunnels were originally reserved for pedestrians and bicycles; to increase traffic capacity the cycle lanes have been modified to each take a single lane of cars, although bicycles still have priority over cars. Pedestrian access to the smaller tunnels has been discontinued, with the free bus services being the alternative.


There are (mainly off-road) bicycle routes to some of the terminals.[88] Free bicycle parking places are available in car parks 1 and 1A, at Terminal 4, and to the North and South of Terminal 5's Interchange Plaza.[89]

Accidents and incidents[edit]

British Airways flight BA038 which crash landed just short of the runway on 17 January 2008

Terrorism and security incidents[edit]

Other incidents[edit]

Future expansion[edit]

Map of London Heathrow Airport showing the proposed extension and third runway.

Runway and terminal expansion[edit]

British Airways aircraft seen here at Terminal 4. (The airline has since moved to Terminals 1, 3 and 5)

In January 2009 the Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon announced that the UK government supported the expansion of Heathrow by building a third 2,200-metre (7,200 ft) runway and a sixth terminal building.[120] This decision followed the 2003 white paper on the future of air transport in the UK,[121] and a public consultation in November 2007.[122] This was a controversial decision which met with widespread opposition because of the expected greenhouse gas emissions, impact on local communities, as well as noise and air pollution concerns.

Before the 2010 General Election the Conservative and Liberal Democrats parties announced that they would prevent the construction of any third runway or further material expansion of the airport's operating capacity. The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has taken the position that London needs more airport capacity, but favours constructing an entirely new airport in the Thames Estuary rather than expanding Heathrow.[123] After the Conservative – Liberal Democrat coalition took power, it was announced that the third runway expansion was cancelled.[12] Two years later, leading Conservatives were reported to have changed their minds.[124]

Another proposed plan for expanding Heathrow's capacity is Heathrow Hub's which aims to extend both runways to a total length of about 7,000 metres and divide them into four so that they each provide two, full length runways, allowing simultaneous take-offs and landings while actually decreasing noise levels.[125][126]

Heathrow railway hub[edit]

A plan to make Heathrow an international railway exchange has also been proposed with the potential construction of Heathrow Hub railway station,[127] built on a link to the High Speed 2 railway line.[128]


In July 2009, Heathrow Airport Limited submitted an application to the Secretary of State for Transport seeking to gain authorisation to develop a new rail link to Heathrow Terminal 5 to be known as Heathrow Airtrack.[129] The rail link would address the current lack of public transport available to the South West of the Airport by connecting to Guildford, Reading and London Waterloo. BAA (now Heathrow Airport Holdings) stated that the scheme should add significantly to its aim of increasing the proportion of people using public transport to travel to the Airport.[130] In April 2011 BAA announced that it was abandoning the project,[131] citing the unavailability of government subsidy and other priorities for Heathrow,[132] such as linking to Crossrail and HS2.

Heathrow/Gatwick rail link[edit]

The Department for Transport is studying the possibility of a direct high-speed rail link between Heathrow and Gatwick Airport.[133]

Metaphorical use[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Number of passengers including domestic, international and transit


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External links[edit]

Media related to London Heathrow Airport at Wikimedia Commons

Heathrow Airport travel guide from Wikivoyage