British Airways, American Airlines and Iberia are all moving terminals at Heathrow

Jun 30, 2022

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If you’re passing through London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR) in the coming months, listen up: there are some big terminal changes in the works.

British Airways (BA) is moving many of its Terminal 3 flights (all long-haul and more than half of the airline’s short-haul flights) to Terminal 5.  The move, BA says will “help increase operational resilience for our flying programme” amid a challenging summer.

As a result, American Airlines and Iberia will be vacating Terminal 5 and moving to Terminal 3 instead.

The move will take effect on Tuesday, 12 July, with all American flights departing the U.S. on Monday, 11 July, parking at Terminal 3 when they land in the U.K.

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Why are BA and American flights moving terminals?

American Airliens was previously operating up to 11 daily flights from Terminal 5, which is home to the airline’s Atlantic joint-venture business partner British Airways.

In July 2020, American consolidated all of its operations into Terminal 5 when Terminal 3 closed at the height of the pandemic. Terminal 3 reopened in summer 2021, and American moved all of its flights back there (except for New York-JFK services, which remained in Terminal 5). Earlier this year, the airline started operating Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW), Los Angeles (LAX) and Miami (MIA) routes from Terminal 5, leaving the others in Terminal 3.

For American and Iberia, co-locating in Terminal 5 gave connecting travellers a more seamless transit experience. Those connecting onto British Airways flights didn’t have to take a bus to a different terminal.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Originally, the plan was for American to co-locate for the duration of the summer travel season (through Oct. 30). But now, American’s residency in Terminal 5 is coming to an abrupt end nearly four months early.

The reason: British Airways can’t handle its own flights in Terminal 5, let alone American’s and Iberia‘s.

British Airways has had a challenging start to its summer operations and to improve the customer experience, BA plans to operate the majority of its flights out of Terminal 5. BA asked American and Iberia to consolidate operations elsewhere.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

There have been numerous reports of mishandled baggage, overcrowded security lines and general chaos at Terminal 5 during peak periods. By moving American and Iberia out of the terminal, British Airways seemingly hopes that it will help solve some of the issues. (Note that American will handle Iberia’s above and below-the-wing operation in Terminal 3.)

In a statement, an American Airlines spokesperson shared that:

Starting on 12 July, our operations at London Heathrow (LHR) will be consolidated in Terminal 3. The temporary partial co-location of our operation with our Atlantic Joint Business partner British Airways was planned only for the summer season and we continue to explore options for joint operations with all of our AJB partners at LHR in the future.

Customers whose connecting flights may be impacted as a result of this adjustment will be contacted directly with alternate travel options that get them to their destinations.

British Airways added in a statement:

As part of a planned Heathrow terminal move with our airline partners, all our long-haul flights and more than half of our short-haul flights that currently operate out of Terminal 3 will be moving to Terminal 5 from 12 July.

We’re proactively letting customers know and recommend they check their booking on prior to travel.

Perhaps the biggest implication of the move is that the minimum connection time needed at Heathrow will increase by 50% for those connecting to and from British Airways.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Currently, the shortest connection that American or Iberia can sell within Terminal 5 is 60 minutes. Now, with the move to Terminal 3, that number jumps to one-and-a-half hours, according to ExpertFlyer’s travel information.

While 90 minutes is the minimum connection, many travellers will likely want to book a longer transit time, given that the trek between terminals requires taking a bus, re-clearing security and possibly boarding a train to a remote pier of gates.

Related: Why London Heathrow isn’t the airport it thinks it is

American has already loaded its schedule change and affected travellers should be able to check their bookings for updated travel information. Those with illegal connections will be contacted by American.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Just like passengers, checked bags will also have a longer journey between terminals. Travellers may thus want to plan some additional time for the carriers to transfer luggage between terminals. (Don’t forget to pack an AirTag in your bags, either.)

While the terminal move is certainly disappointing for those connecting to British Airways flights, it’s certainly good news for premium-cabin passengers with lounge access.

Terminal 3 at London Heathrow is largely regarded as the best for those with lounge access. Oneworld premium-cabin and elite flyers will have access to the Cathay Pacific, Qantas and British Airways lounges.

Additionally, American Express’ new Centurion Lounge in Heathrow is located in Terminal 3, so those with the issuer’s top cards will enjoy easy access.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Meanwhile, British Airways has a stronghold on the lounges in Terminal 5. The main Galleries Club Lounge leaves a bit to be desired, especially when compared to the far superior Cathay Pacific and Qantas lounges in Terminal 3.

Additional reporting by Elizabeth Atkin.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

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