Mateusz Maszczynski is a serving international flight attendant with experience…
Heathrow Airport has confirmed rumours that it is to open an entire terminal to handle arrivals from high-risk ‘Red List’ countries. Initially, Terminal 3 will become the airport’s dedicated ‘Red List’ facility but the airport hopes to move high-risk arrivals to the more isolated Terminal 4 as soon as “operationally possible”.
The airport has four terminals but only Terminal 2 and Terminal 5 are currently open. Terminal 3 and 4 were temporarily mothballed last April in response to plunging passenger numbers caused by the pandemic but Heathrow has spent weeks readying Terminal 3 for passenger flights.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said his department had been in discussions with Heathrow over plans to move high-risk passengers to a completely separate terminal over concerns that ‘Red List’ arrivals were mingling with low and medium risk passengers in terminal buildings and while waiting at the border.
In recent weeks, it has taken some passengers several hours to get through the immigration process at Heathrow. Passengers have complained about being stuck in long lines with little no social distancing. Heathrow says it is the responsibility of the Border Force to segregate Red List arrivals from other passengers.
There are currently 43 countries on the UK government’s Red List where arriving passengers must isolate in special quarantine hotels for 10-days. Only British citizens and residents are allowed to enter England from a Red List country.
The number of arriving passengers from Red List countries had remained low but the system is said to have come under pressure after India was placed on the list. On average, more than four flights per day are still arriving at Heathrow from India. The B.1.617 COVID-19 variant first detected in India has spooked the British government and raised fears of a possible fourth lockdown.
A spokesperson for Heathrow confirmed the plans, saying: “Red list routes will likely be a feature of UK travel for the foreseeable future as countries vaccinate their populations at different rates”.
“We’re adapting Heathrow to this longer-term reality by initially opening a dedicated arrivals facility in Terminal 3 from June 1st for red list passengers arriving on direct flights”.
The terminal will only handle Red List passengers who have arrived on direct flights but some countries on the Red List are banned from flying direct flights to the UK. As a result, some passengers arrive at Heathrow on connecting flights and will still need to mix with lower risk passengers before they are taken to a quarantine hotel.
It’s not known, whether airlines will continue to park their aircraft at their normal terminals and then simply have passengers transported by bus to Terminal 3 where the arrival process can be handled solely by Heathrow and Border Force staff.
“While opening this facility will be logistically very challenging, our hope is that it will enable Border Force to carry out its duties more efficiently as passenger volumes increase in line with the green list,” a Heathrow spokesperson continued.
“Until then, the current red list system will remain in place,” a statement concluded.
All airlines flying from Heathrow are currently operating out of Terminal 2 and 5 but Virgin Atlantic had been hoping to get back into its Terminal 3 home as passenger numbers pick up. That move will, however, now have to wait until Terminal 4 can be reopened.
Mateusz Maszczynski is a serving international flight attendant with experience at a major Middle East and European airline. Mateusz is passionate about the aviation industry and helping aspiring flight attendants achieve their dreams. Cabin crew recruitment can be tough, ultra-competitive and just a little bit confusing - Mateusz has been there and done that. He's got the low down on what really works.