London airports braced for Olympic exodus

London airports braced for Olympic exodus

Airports are bracing themselves for an Olympic exodus with almost 200,000 people a day set to leave the capital after the end of Games.

Bosses at Heathrow are predicting some 116,000 passengers will travel from its terminals on Monday while at Gatwick up to 70,000 will pass through its gates each day next week.

Heathrow has set up a special Games Terminal which will begin operating on Monday.

It will play host to some 8,000 athletes, each expected to be carrying between three and five out-sized bags, over the next three days.

Colin Matthews, chief executive of operator BAA, said “We hope that Olympic athletes, spectators and officials enjoyed a great welcome to London.

“Olympic departures present a fresh challenge with new facilities like the Games Terminal being used for the first time.

“We have been preparing for seven years to deliver a farewell of which the whole country can be proud.”

A spokeswoman for Gatwick airport said extra staff would be on duty, adding that the airport had been preparing for the Olympics for two years.

“There are some particular challenges, such as the large number and size of the athletes’ bags,” she said.

“But we are used to deal with a similar number of passengers during the busy summer period.

“We believe our work with Locog and the Department for Transport over the last two years will mean we’re well prepared.”

Heathrow will introduce a new departures process on Monday, including a check-in and bag-drop at the Olympic Village.

Volunteers will form a guard of honour to cheer athletes into each terminal and the airport is promising to give them a “secret London-themed send-off”.

The temporary terminal is part of Heathrow’s £20m (€25.4m) investment in handling London 2012 passengers.

Equivalent in size to three Olympic swimming pools, the terminal has 31 check-in desks and seven security lanes to help deal with the high number of departures.

Monday is expected to be the terminal’s busiest day of operation, with about 5,000 departing athletes.

After three days of operation the terminal will be decommissioned and the site returned to its original use as a staff car park.

No aircraft will depart from the Games Terminal. Instead, athletes will take an airside coach to their final departure point where they will mingle with regular passengers.

Regular passengers should check-in through their normal terminal three-hours before scheduled departure for long-haul flights and two-hours before for European flights, a spokesman said.

“They can expect a normal journey and should not have to wait any longer than usual, but they might be lucky enough to spot some of the heroes of the 2012 Games in their departure lounge,” he added.

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