Virgin Atlantic Airways today agreed a Memorandum of Understanding with the BAA on a programme to renew and expand the airline’s facilities at Heathrow’s Terminal 3. The new works will be designed by Foster and Partners and will be completed in phases between 2007 - 2012. They will enable Virgin Atlantic to significantly increase the number of passengers it handles at Heathrow from 3 million to 5.5 million per year.The project will provide both speed and intimacy for Virgin Atlantic’s passengers as they check in, move through security, relax in the lounge, get called to the gate and board the aircraft. The first phase of work will be complete before Terminal 5 opens and will be ready for the arrival of Virgin Atlantic’s Airbus A380’s in 2008.
There are both London Underground and Heathrow Express stations at Terminal 3 and Upper Class passengers will be welcomed at a new dedicated Drive Thru area. The new Virgin Atlantic facilities will be so compact that passengers will only have to walk as little as 200 metres from check in to the gate.
Speaking at Heathrow Airport before Virgin Atlantic’s inaugural flight to Mumbai, Richard Branson, Chairman of Virgin Atlantic, welcomed the agreement: “We’re delighted to have secured this innovative deal with the BAA which will allow us to double in size at Heathrow yet create a more intimate experience for our passengers. Our passengers tell us that in their ‘cash rich, time poor’ lives they are increasingly frustrated at the time spent queuing at the airport, so we’ve made sure this work will cut down the time it takes passengers from arrival to the gate. In fact, whether you arrive at Heathrow from London by road or public transport you will get to the airport quicker and get through the airport quicker at Terminal 3 than Terminal 5.
“We’re also delighted to be working with Foster and Partners who have a world class reputation for airport design built on wonderful looking airports like Hong Kong and Stansted.
“We’re taking the opposite approach to our competitors by being ‘big in the air and small on the ground’. Growing passenger demand on the key routes we fly has led us to operate larger planes than our rivals like Boeing 747’s and Airbus A340-600’s, while ordering the new super jumbo Airbus A380’s. Our passengers love our in flight service on these aircraft, yet at the airport we believe they prefer a more intimate experience. With these new developments we will minimise queuing time, speed passengers’ journey through the airport and bring all our facilities together in a more compact area than any other major airline at Heathrow! When talking about terminals for once I’m happy to say to BA that ours is smaller than yours!”
Mick Temple, BAA Heathrow Managing Director, said: “We are delighted to be signing this MOU. It has been reached through constructive dialogue which has been driven by the desire to jointly develop creative solutions. It has been a real team effort and the outcome is a commitment to re-develop part of Terminal 3 for Virgin and provide a great alternative to Terminal 5. The redevelopment also compliments our long term plans for the rest of Terminal 3 and will deliver an enhanced passenger experience for all terminal users.”