[Archive Home][Date Prev][Date Next][Index]
"Heathrow Airport feeling the heat with 2012 London Olympics rapidly approaching"
Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Heathrow Airport feeling the heat with 2012 London Olympics rapidly
By Harriet Baskas
With the London 2012 Summer Games less than three months away, Heathrow, the
event's host airport, is already under fire for the Olympic-sized lines that
have been greeting arriving passengers in the immigration halls.
Customs checks for illegally smuggled drugs and arms have been reduced at UK
airports in an effort to combat long lines and wait times, according to a
weekend report in The Guardian, citing "senior immigration officers and
border force unions."
Last week, UK Immigration Minister Damian Green told the BBC that while
“there is a problem,” improvements were being made. “For the Olympic period,
we are guaranteeing that there will be, at peak times, full manning” of
border control desks.
BAA owns Heathrow and five other airports that serve the UK, but is not
responsible for immigration wait times.
Heathrow claims it is the world's busiest airport in terms of international
traffic. It served nearly 70 million passengers in 2011 and is currently
operating at capacity. It will be the entry point for at least 80 percent of
Olympics-bound passengers, and an estimated 59,000 athletes, family members
Msnbc.com spoke with Colin Matthews and John Holland-Kaye, BAA's chief
executive and commercial director, respectively.
Q: When did Heathrow begin planning for Olympic Games traffic and how did
you go about it?
A: Colin Matthews: Heathrow’s planning for the London 2012 Games began
during the bid process for London about five years ago. Since then the
Heathrow team has been in Beijing in 2008 and Vancouver in 2010 to observe
the operational challenges created by both Summer and Winter Games. Heathrow
also met with the airport operators who successfully delivered Games
transport in Athens and Sydney.
Related: Uh oh Heathrow! Long lines, waits hit travelers months ahead of
Q: The news has been full of stories lately about arriving passengers having
to wait for more than two hours in the immigration halls. Is that what
visitors will encounter when they arrive for the Olympics?
A: CM: Immigration is controlled by the Home Office [the UK government
agency that oversees immigration and passports]. Immigration waiting times
during peak periods at Heathrow recently have been unacceptable, but the
good news is that the government recently announced it is going to devote
more resources in that area.
Q: The airport is really the front door to the city. It’s the first — and
last — place visitors will see. What are you doing to insure Heathrow will
make a good impression?
A: John Holland-Kaye: Our strategy involves best practices and
recommendations from prior host airports, construction of the temporary
terminal for Olympic athletes departing from the Games and investment in
additional facilities for Paralympians in the existing terminals. We’ve also
been working in collaboration with other airport stakeholders and rehearsing
and testing our facilities at their capacity.
Q: How much is Heathrow spending to make the airport games ready? Where do
the funds come from?
A: JHK: Heathrow has invested over £20 million [about $32.4 million] in
providing a great experience for athletes and regular passengers during the
Games period. These funds are entirely Heathrow’s contribution.
Q: What special amenities, exhibits or temporary services will be in place?
A: JHK: We’ll be dressing up the airport. There will be Olympic-themed art
exhibits and each passenger terminal will feature theatre and celebrations
to surprise and delight passengers. For example, one walkway is going to
look like a swimming pool and you’ll feel as if you’re walking on water.
There will places where passengers can take photos standing on podiums, next
to images of athletes. And we’ll do things like set up a 100 meter track so
kids can race against each other.
Q: Everyone loves Olympics-related souvenirs. Will passengers be able to
shop for those at the airport?
A: JHK: Yes, there are special souvenir shops set up for Olympics souvenirs.
It’s also the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee [marking 60 years of the Queen’s
reign], so we’re selling a lot of souvenirs for that. And, royal wedding
souvenirs are still very popular.
Q: What are some insider tips about Heathrow you can offer to travelers,
Olympics-bound or not?
A: JHK: A few quick ones: There’s an Olympic-themed art exhibit land-side in
Terminal 5; there are two family security lanes in each terminal [look for
the rainbows] and kids get a sticker when they go through; and at the duty
free cosmetic shops in each terminal, you can get a facial or a hand massage
Do you have an opinion about this story?
Share it with other readers in our CAA Discussion Forums
Fair Use Notice
This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of political, human rights, economic, democracy and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.html. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.
If you have any queries regarding this issue, please Email us at email@example.com