Heathrow Airport's newest terminal will open tomorrow -- and close three days later.
It's a temporary terminal created especially for the estimated 10,000+ athletes and officials attending the London Olympics.
Springing up on the site of one of Heathrow's staff car parks, this innovative 'pop-up terminal' is 3.9 square kilometres in size, or the equivalent of three Olympic swimming pools.
The Olympic terminal will kick into gear on August 13 -- the day after the closing ceremony to the 2012 Olympic Games, and expected to be the busiest day in Heathrow’s history.
And after just three hectic days of shuttling members of the 'Olympic family' from buses onto Airbuses and other planes, workers will pull down whole terminal down.
Why do the athletes and officials get their own terminal? Because immediately after the games finish, 138,000 people will pour into Heathrow Airport to travel home.
Since Heathrow already creaks at the seams during during regular days, this terminal will take 10,000 more bodies out of the mix -- and also give the athletes, including many already-famous competitors along with those who'll have become 'overnight' stars with the public, a little bit of a break.
It's an interesting concept, reminding us of Geneva's temporary terminal, set up to handle extra passengers for winter ski flights and to allow for renovation works. As airline and airport systems (especially IT) develop further, look for more of these pop-up terminals to spread.
How the Olympic terminal will work...
Imagine you're an Olympic athlete or official heading home after the last day of the games.
There's no need to pack up your pole-vaulting kit (or whatever) and taking the Tube, then another Tube and then the Heathrow Express out to the airport -- the Olympic Village in Stratford has its own airline check in and baggage drop facility where you'll get all your travel arrangements sorted the night before you leave.
The next morning, you'll be bussed across London to the pop-up terminal and make your way to one of the 31 desks.
You'll then head to the outgoing UK border control inside the terminal.
From there it's through one of the seven dedicated security channels — and that's the end of your run through the Olympic terminal.
Once you're "airside" past security, you'll be bussed again to the departure lounge at terminal 1, 3, 4 or 5 for your flight home. You shouldn't have spent more than thirty minutes in the new terminal.
Aussies head to Stanstead Airport
Australia's athletes won't be using the pop-up terminal, though, and neither will any other team flying on their own planes to London.
Since the Australian Olympic team will be travelling on exclusive flights provided by Olympic sponsor Qantas, they'll be going via Stanstead, the low-cost and charter airport off to London's northeast.
If you're en route to Heathrow...
While the Olympics are over, the Paralympics have yet to begin -- so here are the days to avoid in your travel schedule.
- 22 August: Peak day for arrival of Paralympic athletes
- 28 August: The day before the Paralympic Opening Ceremony and peak day for arrival of sponsors/media
- 10 September: The day after the Paralympic Closing Ceremony
About John Walton
Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.