Heathrow Airport to reopen mothballed Terminal 3

Europe’s busiest airport prepares for a long-awaited surge in air traffic

A passenger arrives at Heathrow airport in London. The airport is to reopen Terminal 3 on July 15.  Andrew Cowie / EPA
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The UK’s Heathrow Airport is to reopen Terminal 3 after it lay dormant for more than a year owing to the near-shutdown of international travel.

Europe’s busiest airport is preparing for a surge in travellers as countries gradually ease coronavirus restrictions. Its second runway reopened on Monday.

Heathrow said it would reopen Terminal 3 from July 15 for Virgin Atlantic and Delta flights.

The UK government is expected to scrap quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated passengers returning from some countries.

Reviving air travel has been delayed by the spread of the Delta Plus variant of the coronavirus, which has complicated border decisions within government and abroad.

Terminal 3 was shut in May last year as passenger numbers fell steeply during the pandemic. However, after more than a year of restricted travel, Britain's aviation industry is preparing for growth.

"With passenger demand expected to increase when ministers permit fully vaccinated passengers to travel more freely, Heathrow is getting ready to welcome you back", said John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow's chief executive.

The reopening of Terminal 3 means that all of Heathrow's four terminals will be operational.

Heathrow said it plans to continue to use Terminal 4 as a dedicated centre for passengers arriving from high-risk countries on Britain's "red list", who must quarantine in a hotel for 10 days.

The moves at Heathrow come alongside a relaxation of local lockdown rules after the UK administered vaccines against the coronavirus at a quicker pace than most of its peers.

On Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed plans to scrap social-distancing and face-mask requirements in England. The government has said it will allow vaccinated people to return from medium-risk locations without isolating, but it has yet to give details.

Heathrow expects demand to increase “when ministers permit fully vaccinated passengers to travel more freely”, it said.

With the reopening, three of Heathrow’s four terminals will be fully functional, the spokesman said. Virgin Atlantic – which serves green-list destinations including Antigua, Barbados, Grenada and Israel – said it and US partner Delta Air Lines will return to Terminal 3 once it is up and running.

UK Prime Minister says 'we must balance risks' as Covid rules set to end

UK Prime Minister says 'we must balance risks' as Covid rules set to end

The UK still mandates quarantines, along with expensive Covid-19 tests, for people arriving from most countries.

The government said last month that it plans to ease the rules further “later in the summer” for returnees from amber-listed destinations.

Details are to be set out this month, including the rules for children and when the changes will come into effect.

British Airways, the dominant airline at Heathrow, plans to dramatically increase transatlantic capacity next month, according to data provider OAG.

Masks may remain a feature of air travel regardless of the UK government’s move to make them non-mandatory, the Heathrow spokesman said.

Face coverings have helped airports cope with difficulties of social distancing, which will become tougher as they become busier, and will help restore confidence in air travel, he said.

Masks will also be mandatory on aircraft operated by easyJet and Ryanair, the airlines said.

Updated: July 06, 2021, 10:18 AM