Will Heathrow T3 Open Again Soon?

Will Heathrow T3 open again soon? Yes, it should do.

Since terminals 3 and 4 closed 13 months ago, all passenger flights to and from London Heathrow Airport have been operating from either terminal 2 or 5. As things look to pick up again, Heathrow T3 has been rumoured to be opening again shortly. Of course, nothing is certain at this point. But this is what I have seen around the inter webs as of late.

Heathrow T3 will re-open on 17th May

This was the original plan a few weeks back. The 17th May has long been the date which has been aimed for when restarting international travel from the UK. However, with that date just days away as I write this, Heathrow T3 clearly won’t be opening again on that date.

But why?

There are a few reasons. First off, the meagre list of countries on the UK Governments green list of countries means that the demand simply isn’t there. The first airlines that were slated to move back into Heathrow T3 are Virgin Atlantic and Delta. With both of those airlines mostly serving the US, there won’t be a huge uptick in numbers to warrant re-opening the terminal. Another major player at the terminal is Emirates. Again, the UAE is currently on the UK’s red list so there will be very reduced passenger numbers there.

Another less credible reason I have heard for the extended closure is that the terminal is infested with rats! Heathrow T3 is currently the oldest terminal at Heathrow by a long way. Whilst the passenger areas have been kept in a presentable condition, I have heard from staff members that it’s a very different story behind the scenes. With drastically reduced numbers in the terminal for the past year, issues in the passenger areas are more likely to go un-noticed.

Heathrow T3
Heathrow T3, December 2019

Heathrow T3 Should Open By July

A few weeks back, British Airways announced that they would launch 4 new routes to European destinations. All 4 destinations are set to launch at the beginning of July. And all 4 are slated to use terminal 3.

In addition, a couple of previous British Airways flight that used T3 are slated to be back there by July. Notably Barcelona, Gibraltar, Prague and Vienna.

What About The Other Airlines?

Of course, Heathrow T3 is home to more than just Virgin Atlantic, Delta and British Airways. Cathay Pacific have recently announced that they will ramp up their services to London once more. If the US and the UK can agree a travel corridor between the two countries, there will no doubt be a huge increase in American Airlines flights. Whilst it is strongly rumoured that American will stay put in T5 permanently, the knock on effect will see some current T5 operations displaced.

And The Lounges?

Heathrow T3 is home to more than a few airline lounges. Most notably, the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse. The airline has already stated that when they do move back ‘home’ as they call it, The Clubhouse won’t open straight away. Things are looking better for team blue however. The latest rumours I have seen state that their lounge will re-open when flights move back. However, it’s unknown whether it will be a similar situation to what they have in T5. Being in one complex as such, I suspect both the Galleries Club and First lounges will open simultaneously. In T5, the First lounge has been open more or less constantly since June. Where as the Club lounge has been more on and off.

A pair that won’t be opening any time soon is the American Airlines lounges and the Qantas lounge. As mentioned, it’s likely that American will be one of the last airlines to move back to T3. If they move back at all. It’s telling that a couple of years ago, their lounges in London were on the list of refurbishments.

American will start construction on clubs in Miami, New York (JFK), Dallas/Fort Worth and Los Angeles this year, with clubs in Chicago, London and other key cities entering the renovation phase in the coming years. Ultimately, the makeover will touch all of American’s lounges.

There’s now no mention of any refurbishment taking place in London.

American Airlines International First Lounge, Heathrow

With regards to Qantas, the reason behind their lounge remaining shuttered for the foreseeable future is pretty obvious. With Australia playing hardball with regards to International travel, it’s unlikely they will be back in London any time soon.

Qantas lounge Heathrow T3
Qantas Lounge, Heathrow T3

When it comes to everyone’s favourite Cathay Pacific lounge, flip a coin! Yes, the airline is increasing services to London. But I think it’s highly unlikely anyone will be travelling there unless it’s absolutely essential for a long while yet. Even on business.

Cathay Pacific Lounge, Heathrow T3
Cathay Pacific First Lounge, Heathrow T3

Bulldoze it!

Back in 2015, ITV reported that Heathrow T3 would be demolished by 2019. Obviously, that never happened and the article has now vanished. So you’ll have to take my word for it! There is a thread on the airliners.net forum that references it however. As mentioned above, the terminal is the oldest at the airport by a long way – the building was initially opened in 1961. As part of Heathrow’s masterplan, T3 doesn’t feature. Instead, T5 and T2 will be joined by a new construction in a toaster rack style.

While the building is empty, why not make a start on this plan? Well, other than the cost of course. Permanently mothball the building for the time being and once things pick up again, leave a few airlines in T2 and move the rest to T4.

One potential issue with Terminal 3 being bulldozed – either now, in 5 years, 10 years or whenever – is the control tower. The current Heathrow control tower opened in 2008 in order to provide adequate visibility to the terminal 5 complex. It is currently part of the terminal 3 complex. The air traffic controllers who work there access the tower through terminal 3. Hence why it hasn’t been completely lights out in the building.

Terminal 4

On the subject of Terminal 4, what’s happening there? At the moment, the only rumour I’ve heard regarding that is that it could be used for UK red list flights. The only other mention of it was from Simon Calder in 2020 saying it would close permanently. Being the second largest terminal by area, this would be a big capacity cut. Although being in an odd location with regards to the other terminals, access isn’t great. Either by passengers from the other terminals, or by arriving aircraft when the southern runway is being used for departures. Something I have first hand experience of…

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