Heathrow Airport is making preparations to turn its southern Terminal into a designated arrivals facility for red list arrivals. Until the facility is ready, the airport intends to use Terminal 3 for such purposes from June 1st.
Heathrow Airport is currently accepting travelers from green, amber, and red list countries. Posing the most significant threat of importing COVID-19 variants, travelers from red list countries are presently required to quarantine for ten days in managed hotel accommodation. Unfortunately, Heathrow’s current arrivals set up doesn’t allow for adequate segregation of such arrivals before leaving the terminal.
What’s the plan?
According to Sky News, Heathrow will reopen Terminal 3 as a designated facility for handling red-list arrivals. The airport will open the facility on Tuesday, June 1st. In the meantime, the airport will look to turn Terminal 4 into such a facility to replace Terminal 3.
The facility aims to stop red list arrivals from mixing with those from green and amber destinations in the lengthy immigration queues. According to the publication, a Heathrow Airport spokesperson commented,
“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.”
Using the terminal as a designated red-list arrivals facility will effectively separate passengers from such countries. It won’t be easy, though. According to My London, British Airways, Air India, and Virgin Atlantic are all currently flying passengers to the country from India. Such flights could taxi straight to the facility.
Unfortunately, due to the rules on entering the country for red list arrivals, many have to transit in another country. This means that a Lufthansa flight arriving at Terminal 2 may have some red-list arrivals. These would potentially have to be separated at the immigration queue and bussed over to Terminal 3/4. While this is easy enough, bags would also have to be manually separated to ensure they reach the right passenger.
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The current system
Simple Flying was able to experience the current immigration system in Terminal 2 on Wednesday. From entering the queue for British and EU passport holders to clearing passport control took exactly two hours. There were three queues in total. On the left was a line for red list passengers. On the right was a queue for British and EU passport holders, and separating them was the “all other passport queue”.
The only thing separating the three queues was a retractable queue barrier. Worryingly, many passengers were not wearing their masks correctly. Alarmingly, this included passengers arriving from red list countries.
There were no members of staff asking people to wear masks correctly, although free water was distributed throughout the queue. Upon passing through passport control, amber and green arrivals were free to walk through the baggage hall. Red list arrivals joined another line to be escorted to their bags.
Simple Flying has contacted Heathrow Airport regarding this story. It will be updated as appropriate.
What do you make of Heathrow separating red-list arrivals in a separate terminal? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!