The British government has urged foreign heads of state to come to London for the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II on scheduled commercial flights “where possible”, a briefing document sent to world leaders by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has revealed.
An indication of the logistical challenges facing officials ahead of the funeral on Monday, 19th September, the FCDO has asked heads of state to leave their private jets and military planes at home and instead fly commercial airlines to Heathrow Airport where.
If, however, flying commercial isn’t possible, foreign governments have been told that Heathrow Airport will be out of bounds for private jets because the airfield will be so busy in the run-up to the funeral.
The airport is often frequented by large Boeing 747 jumbo jets belonging to Sheikhs and ruling families in the Middle East, but the FCDO has told foreign embassies that private flights will be diverted to “less busy airports” surrounding London.
Helicopter transfers from these more distant airports will, though, be strictly prohibited according to the document obtained by Politico.
The FCDO has also cautioned that “unforeseen events may require commercial and private flights to divert from the intended airport of arrival.”
Visiting foreign dignitaries who do choose to arrive in London on a commercial flight will instead be whisked from the aircraft door to a special VIP terminal in a luxury BMW limousine.
A dedicated immigration officer will be standing by to complete entry formalities in the special terminal which is formally known as the Windsor Suite and which is separated from the rest of the airport.
A handful of countries will, however, be exempted from the British government’s strict travel protocol due to overriding security concerns. U.S. President Joe Biden is still expected to arrive in Britain on Air Force One with a full entourage in tow.
Heathrow Airport is yet to announce how air traffic could be affected in the run-up to the royal funeral, but flights are expected to be busy as people descend on London.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Heathrow said the airport was “thankful to have shared many key milestones with Queen Elizabeth II during her life, including welcoming her warmly in 1952 when she arrived back from Kenya as our Queen”.
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.