American Airlines Wants to Move to London Heathrow Terminal 5

Nov 30, 2018

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American Airlines produces a podcast for employees called Tell Me Why. Anyone can listen to these podcasts on Soundcloud and gain insight into internal communications at the world’s largest airline.

On the podcast from this Wednesday, the host sat down with Rhett Workman, American’s managing director at London Heathrow (LHR). On the podcast, Workman dropped some fascinating facts about AA’s “non-hub hub” at Heathrow:

  • Largest number of international widebody departures of any airport for AA
  • Highest volumes of outbound cargo of any airport for AA
  • Second-highest number of Concierge Key travelers, behind Dallas/Fort Worth
  • Summer 2019 will see a 10% capacity increase year-over-year — the largest since AA started at Heathrow in 1991 — with new service from Phoenix (PHX) and bigger planes on flights from Chicago (ORD)

But the most interesting bit of the podcast came when Workman was discussing AA’s partnership with British Airways. In the discussion about efforts to work closer together, Rhett dropped: “it’s really exciting to be with BA in the same terminal in Terminal 3 and, potentially in the future, Terminal 5.”

Currently American Airlines operates out of Heathrow’s Terminal 3. However, a majority of AA passengers connect to or are connecting from British Airways flights, and — while BA has some flights from Terminal 3 — BA operates a vast majority of its flights from Heathrow’s Terminal 5.

Anyone who’s made this terminal change knows how much of a pain it can be. The terminals aren’t linked by an airside train, leaving buses as the only means of transportation. And it’s definitely not a smooth ride. The buses are often packed to capacity as they are driven around tight turns and up and down ramps between the terminals.

In total, the process of transferring via these buses, clearing transfer security and possibly needing to visit a transfer desk can eat up layover times. For that reason, the minimum connection time that you can book through Heathrow when connecting between AA and BA is 75 minutes when connecting within the UK or 90 minutes when flying through to Europe. To be safe, two-hour layovers are the shortest connections I’ll book there.

American Airlines isn’t oblivious to this. I spoke with an American Airlines spokesperson for London who confirmed nothing is in the works yet, but AA has made its intentions very clear to British Airways and Heathrow that it wants to co-locate with BA in Terminal 5.

In the meantime, AA and BA are working to make connections easier. The two partners just opened a new Connection Center in Terminal 3 to make passenger connections as easy as they can while still operating in separate terminals.

In addition, the airlines just announced a “job swap” in which American Airlines airport agents are going to train and work as British Airways airport agents and vice versa for six months. They hope that this will help both airlines take the “best of the best” policies and procedures to elevate both airlines’ customer experience.

For more about American Airlines’ operations at London Heathrow, check out:

This post has been updated since publishing to note that British Airways operates some flights from Terminal 3.

Featured image by BrasilNut1 / Getty Images.

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