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"Heathrow's T5 'will be ready 11 months early'"


 
Sunday, December 17, 2006

Heathrow's T5 'will be ready 11 months early'
By Oliver Morgan
United Kingdom - The Observer 


British Airways chief executive Willie Walsh is confident that the new
Terminal 5 at London's Heathrow will be finished nearly a year ahead of
schedule, boosting the airline's revenues.

Walsh met Stephen Nelson, head of Heathrow owner BAA, which is in charge of
the project, last week, and was assured that the terminal would come in
ahead of time.

Running early is important for BA because until the project is completed,
one in five passengers will have to be taken to their planes by bus. The
purpose of T5 is to improve the experience of travel through Heathrow, which
Walsh admits is poor, and to increase efficiency. Using buses badly
undermines these aspirations.

The final phase of the project - building a second satellite to the terminal
called 'T5C' - will mean all passengers can board from the building.

Walsh said: 'We had a meeting with BAA on Monday. They have told us that
they are going to plan T5 to open in May 2010. That is 11 months ahead of
schedule.'

Walsh says he is confident BAA will stick to that commitment because he
received it from Nelson himself.

T5 will cost 4.3bn, of which BA will pay 325m. Walsh says the airline will
recoup that investment in cost savings. BA is also calculating what it
believes will be a 'significant' increase in its revenues thanks to the
project. Bringing forward completion of T5 will give BA a financial boost in
2010.

Relations between BA and BAA have been strained this year. BA is unhappy
with BAA's intention to develop Stansted (it plans a second runway there)
before Heathrow. That dispute moved in BA's favour with the publication of
an update to the government's transport white paper that backed a third
runway at Heathrow as soon as possible, consistent with environmental
commitments.

BA has also been angered by the handling of passengers through security
after the terrorist alert of 10 August. In BA's opinion, BAA has not
provided sufficient staff to deal with the increased and lengthy screening
procedures which were introduced.

Meanwhile, the Transport & General Workers' Union has announced it will hold
a strike ballot among 11,000 BA cabin crew members, claiming the airline has
imposed new working practices, including regulations on sick leave, rather
than negotiating on their introduction.

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