Heathrow Airport is to reopen Terminal 4 on June 14 after a more than two-year closure with Qatar Airways set to become the first airline to return to the terminal at the West London airport.
Terminal 4 was quickly shuttered in the very early days of the pandemic in April 2020 when the first wave of travel restrictions caused the global demand for air travel to plummet steeply.
Heathrow kept two of its four terminal buildings closed for the majority of the pandemic and airlines were temporarily consolidated in Terminal 2 and Terminal 5. In recent months, however, it has become increasingly clear that Heathrow is struggling to cope with serious space constraints.
Largely abandoned for most of the pandemic, adverts, signs and magazines turned Terminal 4 into a massive time capsule after airlines abandoned the building at short notice.
Heathrow says that it has, at least, taken the opportunity during the extended closure to upgrade toilets, air conditioning and hold baggage screening machines.
In December 2021, the building was partially reopened to act as a dedicated arrivals terminal for passengers arriving from Red List countries who had to spend two weeks in government-controlled hotel quarantine. The facility was closed just months later after the Red List policy was scrapped.
As travel restrictions started to be lifted, Heathrow said that it planned to reopen the terminal by July. Slightly ahead of schedule, Qatar Airways will move back into the terminal on June 14 and a slew of other carriers will slowly move back into the terminal over several weeks.
In total, nearly 30 airlines call Terminal 4 their home at Heathrow, although Aeroflot Russian Airlines won’t be returning anytime soon after being banned by the British government.
Heathrow has been heavily criticised by several airlines including British Airways for not reopening Terminal 4 earlier but the airport says passenger numbers only now warrant reopening the terminal.
“While we are still years away from passenger numbers returning to pre-pandemic levels, reopening Terminal 4 will give airlines at Heathrow extra space across the airport, helping them manage the impact additional travel documents continue to have on check in times,” commented Heathrow’s chief executive John Holland-Kaye.
The airport is hiring as many as 1,000 new security officers but warns “it is not always easy to balance supply and demand during this intense recovery phase”.
“At peak times there have been longer queues than usual at check-in, security, immigration and baggage reclaim, but it has been well organised and has kept moving,” a spokesperson for the airport said on Monday.
Opened by His Royal Highness Prince Charles and Princess Diana in 1986 at a cost of £200 million, Terminal 4 was originally the home of British Airways before Terminal 5 was completed in 2008.
The terminal received a multi-million-pound upgrade in 2008 and before the pandemic served around 35 airlines and was the home of the Skyteam alliance.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.