NO LONGER must you walk the walk. You remember the walk, don’t you? The quick step that for many mutated into a run — and from there a sprint — when they realised the gate was closing, and they were at least 10 minutes away from it? The walk that added what seemed like half an hour from checking in to reaching the departures gate? The walk that ended in giving you a major sweat and that made you reckon you deserved a sit down and a certificate for not being late? You remember that walk, don’t you?
Well, you can forget about it now, because that walk is no more. It has, in some of the words of Monty Python’s famous parrot sketch, passed on, ceased to be, expired.
Terminal 2 (aka T2), the new London home of Aer Lingus, is the latest stage in the development of the airline’s long history at Heathrow, says Mike Rutter, Chief Revenue Officer, Aer Lingus. He informs us that the airline has been one of the longest-serving carriers of the London corridor, and has been involved in serving London since the 1940s. “Between Heathrow and Gatwick, Aer Lingus has transformed Dublin-London to become the largest air corridor in Europe, and the second largest international air corridor anywhere in the world. T2 is about serving one of the busiest air corridors in the world.”
One of the many benefits of T2 for Aer Lingus passengers — as well as those of other airlines, and there will be 10 in total by the end of October — is that it allows same-terminal connections with a number of Aer Lingus codeshare partners, notably United Airlines and Air Canada. Another benefit that will be particularly beneficial to Aer Lingus passengers is that the transfer journey is much easier and significantly shorter.
The difference between the now disused T1 and the bright and shiny T2 is remarkable. Anyone who has flown from Dublin, Cork or Belfast into T1 will recall how long a trek it was into Arrivals, and from there to various transport portals. That time is now appreciably shorter, and the return journey back home is the same, if not better due to the quality offerings at T2 once you pass through the snaking queues at security.
The main departures area of T2 features somewhat higher-end shopping choices such as Burberry, Bvlgari, Harrods, Gucci and Kurt Geiger. For those who like to avail of such things, there’s a personal shopping lounge, which is the first of its kind to open in any airport. Passengers can book the free service online beforehand ( www.heathrow.com/personalshopper ). Reliable, staple outlets such as WH Smith and Boots are there to cater for those who just want a buy a magazine, a bottle of water and a bar of chocolate. If shopping isn’t on your agenda (and, frankly, for the well-seasoned traveller, is it ever their highest priority?), then eating might well be.
It is here that the T2 departures area comes into its own. All restaurants offer 15-minute meals, so if you’re stuck for time then your stomach certainly won’t be missing anything. If you have an hour or more to kill, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the (junk food-free) options. From The Perfectionist’s Café (created by Michelin-starred chef, Heston Blumenthal) and The Gorgeous Kitchen to La Salle, EAT, Wondertree and Yo Sushi (into which you can tweet your order), there are enough food/drink outlets here to make you want to arrive for your flight at least one hour before the gate closes. After your meal, or snack in the T2 departures area, your Aer Lingus flight gate is genuinely only several minutes away.
It’s all change, too, if you’re a member of AL’s Gold Circle Club. With an investment of just over €1m, designed by a DAA architectural team, and built by Glenbeigh Construction, the new Business Lounge is smart and spacious and laden with style, from the raindrop-styled lights to the faux-grass floor coverings. It is, says Mike Rutter, all about increasing the product capability and creating “a completely different guest proposition than we’ve ever been able to offer”.
So it’s long live T2? Let’s raise a chilled champagne flute to that. T1, remarks a passing Arnold Schwarzenegger (at least, I’m fairly sure it’s him) is now well and truly terminated, and, he emphasises sternly, will not be back.
T2 has been designed with energy efficiency in mind, targeting 20% of its energy requirements from renewable sources.
Innovations include arrays of 2,500 LED (light emitting diodes) sections that mimic natural light, a smart lighting control system that turns off lights when daylight is bright enough, and louvered glaze walls designed to let in natural light but keep out in summer, which will decrease the need for air-conditioning.
Total spend on Heathrow T2: £2.5bn
People employed on construction: 35,000
Number of airlines eventually operating out of T2: 26
Projected passenger numbers by end of 2014: 15.8m
T2 built to accommodate passenger numbers: 20m
T2 footprint: 40,000 sq m
Number of gates: 28
Security lanes: 29
Check-in desks: 60
Drinking water fountains: 42
Car parking spaces: 1,340
Self-service kiosks: 66
Personal Shopping Lounge: 1