London Heathrow Airport's terminals explained: what's on offer and why there are only four

The west London hub is due to reopen Terminal 4 to cope with an expected busy summer season

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London’s Heathrow Airport is gearing up for a busy summer season, with Terminal 4 coming out of mothballs, in the hope of recovering from the massive blows it suffered due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The UK’s busiest airport suffered its worst financial year in 2021, with passenger numbers deep-diving to their lowest levels in nearly 50 years.

Despite its current passenger levels being 23 per cent behind forecast, Heathrow expects to meet its target of serving 45.5 million travellers by the end of 2022.

This week Heathrow’s boss unveiled plans to increase the capacity of the airport by reopening Terminal 4 by July to cater for the expected surge in travel. The UK dropped most of its travel restrictions in February, and many countries who have yet to do so are expected to take a more relaxed approach over the coming months.

Heathrow customers’ experience as they prepare to board their flight varies drastically depending on which terminal they are flying from.

So what services are on offer at each terminal?

Terminal 1

Effectively, there is no Terminal 1. Passengers on London Underground's Piccadilly Line might notice stops for Terminals 2,3,4 and 5. That's because it closed in 2015 and is no longer in use. It wasn't even the first terminal at Heathrow. It was opened in 1968, and the previous buildings, known as Europa and Britannic combined to become Terminal 2, while Oceanic became Terminal 3.

Terminal 2

Airlines using this terminal, which was originally built in the mid-1950s include British Airways, Etihad, Egyptair, United Airlines, American Airlines, Lufthansa and Air Canada.

Travellers can pick up last-minute purchases from Harrods and a wide range of high-end fashion brands, such as Bulgari, Burberry, Kate Spade, Kurt Geiger, Saint Laurent, Ted Baker and Bottega Veneta.

The British chef Heston Blumenthal has a restaurant there, The Perfectionists’ Cafe, which invites guests to “dine in style”.

Travellers can also find food and beverages at Yo!, Pret A Manger, Leon and two British-themed pubs – London’s Pride and Big Smoke.

For a more upmarket experience, travellers could splash out at Caviar House & Prunier seafood bar.

Terminal 3

Domestic and international flights operate from the terminal, which serves major carriers including Emirates, Virgin Atlantic, Delta Airlines, Qantas and China Airlines and opened in 1961.

Here, travellers can get their hands on items from designer names such as Chanel, Fendi, Hermes, Gucci, Harrods, Kurt Geiger and Louis Vuitton.

Mac Cosmetics also has a store in the terminal and fine jewellery is on offer at Tiffany & Co, Watches of Switzerland and Cartier.

Jo Malone, a candle and fragrance shop popular with celebrities, also has a branch there.

For dining, travellers have the option of Pret A Manger, Wagamama or Caffe Nero, among others. For people willing to spend more, there are EL&N London, The Curator and Caviar House Oyster Bar, all of which are unique to Terminal 3 and not in any other part of the airport

Terminal 4

This terminal, which opened in 1986, has been closed to passengers throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

But in December last year, Heathrow temporarily opened Terminal 4 for arrivals from red-list nations, to separate them from travellers from lower-risk countries.

People arriving from red-list nations were required to spend 11 nights quarantining in a hotel upon landing.

The stricter travel rules were ushered in after the highly transmissible Omicron Covid variant was found in Britain.

The red list was scrapped in December and Terminal 4 was once again deserted.

Heathrow has said it plans to reopen the terminal by July to help the airport cope with the expected increase in passenger numbers over the summer.

Terminal 5

This terminal opened in 2008 and is usually reserved for two airlines, British Airways and Iberia. The majority of BA's flights go from this terminal.

This terminal offers a wide range of cafes and restaurants to cater for a variety of tastes. Many of the outlets are not found in the other terminals.

British chef and TV star Gordon Ramsay has his Plane Food restaurant there, while Starbucks, Itsu and Giraffe are also unique to T5.

Fortnum & Mason Bar offers signature “in-flight picnics”, while diners at Kanishka Kitchen are served Michelin Star-quality Indian cuisine.

The terminal also features the Pilots Bar & Kitchen, a vintage-inspire brasserie which serves classic British and international dishes.

Pre-flight shopping includes big names such as Dior, Gucci, Harrods, Hermes, Kurt Geiger, Louis Vuitton, Montblanc, Prada, Reiss, Rituals, Fortnum & Mason, Rolex and Watches of Switzerland.

Updated: February 24, 2022, 4:38 PM