London Heathrow Airport

hthrwLondon Heathrow Airport, located 22 kilometres west of London, is probably the world’s best known airport. In terms of total traffic, it is the world’s fourth busiest airport, and in terms of the number of international flights and international passenger traffic which passes through the airport it is the world’s busiest, seeing over 190,000 passengers pass through it each day.

Heathrow has five passenger terminals and one cargo facility and it handles over 1300 aircraft movements each day on its two runways.

Despite the massive amount of traffic which passes through Heathrow, in terms of physical size it is a mere minnow compared to other airports. For instance, Heathrow occupies an area of 1,227 hectares, whereas the world’s largest airport, King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, covers an astounding 20,978 hectares.

Heathrow is run by Heathrow Airport Holdings Ltd, formerly called BAA, which also owns Stansted, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Southampton airports. Although Heathrow is run along private enterprise lines, they must abide by strict regulations that are set by the British Department for Transport.

Eighty six airlines currently use Heathrow and service 193 destinations in 90 countries. Because the airport has only two runways which are currently running at 98% capacity there is little possibility of further expansion, although the introduction of larger aircraft, such as the Airbus A380, which is being used by a growing number of airlines, means that Heathrow could handle many more passengers without the need to increase flights.

Heathrow was originally designed to cope with a maximum of about 55 million passengers per year, but it is already experiencing traffic of 70 million, meaning that services are often extended and delays quite often occur. However, given that Heathrow Airport handles on average 150,000 pieces of checked luggage per day, using a state-of-the art barcode and conveyor system which sees just 0.12 pieces of luggage per 1,000 get lost or misplaced, the system does actually work well, although those figures are no consolation to anyone who has lost luggage.

Heathrow has over 80 shops operating within it terminals and over 40 bars and restaurants. With five terminals, getting around Heathrow can be complicated, and there is a network of free trains and buses to help facilitate passengers. There are three hotels attached to the airport, and a free bus service which transports passengers to nearby hotels.

The Heathrow Express provides a non-stop rail service between the airport and Paddington Station, and four tube stations also service the airport with connections to all parts of London. London taxis also provide an excellent service. Many local and long distance buses connect with the airport and there are many hectares of parking within easy reach of local motorways and main roads.

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