An increased level of comfort and convenience is what British Airways (BA) hopes its customers will experience as they pass through Heathrow Airport's impressive and futuristic new Terminal 5 (T5). From the moment they go through the doors of the Richard Rogers-designed building to the time they step out and on to their planes, 30 million passengers a year will enjoy a smooth, simple, stress-free environment, where queues, tannoy announcements and claustrophobic spaces are relegated to the past.
That, at least, is the theory and BA, as the sole occupant of the building, and the owner, BAA, have certainly put everything in place to ensure this is so - barring unforeseen security alerts, technical hitches and adverse weather conditions. Once passengers check in - 80% are expected to do it online before arriving at the airport - and pass through passport control and security (there are 18 checkpoints compared with eight in Terminal 4) in an unprecedented 10 minutes, there's more time than ever before to sit down, relax and enjoy a meal and a drink in a calm, quiet environment where all announcements are made via visual boards.
They may initially be distracted by the vastness of the beautiful £4.3b building, where space is a key element of its appeal - 50 football pitches could fit over the building's five floors - as is the amount of light flooding into it. Unrestricted views on to the runways and the activities of aircraft coming and going could keep passengers amused for hours, as will the wealth of retail outlets which majors on exclusive names such as Tiffany, Paul Smith and Smythson.
When it comes to food and beverage, there's something for everyone in both the main terminal building (A) and in the two satellite terminals (B and C), from a wide range of public restaurants and bars (see below) to the Galleries, a collection of six luxury lounges, managed by the Compass Group, that are expected to provide a level of airport hospitality unprecedented anywhere in the world.
"It has been our intention to create an area where passengers can remove themselves from the hustle and bustle one normally expects to find in an airport building," says Andrew Wood, national account manager for Compass Group, BA executive lounges. "We're providing the quality of service and food that customers would expect to find in a five-star hotel."
BA has put £60m of the £330m it has contributed to the £4.3b cost of T5 - the balance has been paid by BAA - into developing the lounges. About 23,000 of the 82,000 passengers who will pass through T5 daily will be entitled to come here to relax and enjoy the complimentary hospitality before catching their flights. More akin to the luxury space in a boutique hotel than what you might expect of an airport lounge, the Galleries concept will be replicated by BA in major airports around the world, starting with JFK Airport in New York later this year.
Six specially commissioned art works by emerging British-based artists adds to the exclusivity and lavishness of the Galleries. Passengers can sip their Champagne surrounded by 3-D illuminated etched glass screens, a seemingly traditional version of the BA crest in trompe l'oeil which unexpectedly comes alive, and an animated take on William Morris's Willow Boughs wallpaper.
The Compass Group has been awarded a five-year contract to operate the food service, hospitality and housekeeping in all the lounges. The quality and provenance of ingredients - with major consideration given to free-range, organic, Fairtrade and sustainable products - will be an essential feature of the food offer. Executive chef Bob Brown, formerly senior lecturer at Westminster College, will be introducing a strong training culture in the state-of-the-art kitchen. Considering there are no kitchen facilities for the lounges in T1 and T4, passengers should immediately enjoy a product far superior to anything they've experienced before at Heathrow.
The Concorde Room, for instance, which can accommodate up to 156 of BA's first class customers and specially invited guests, is offering Marmite soldiers with soft-boiled eggs to accompany the traditional English breakfast, an all-day dining selection including the new BA signature burger using Hereford beef, and afternoon tea with a choice of up to 30 different loose-leaf teas served by a tea sommelier. For dinner, passengers may choose a three-course meal including velouté of pea with dry-cured Gloucester Old Spot bacon, baked turbot with asparagus and crushed Anya potatoes, and warm rhubarb, honey and almond tart with caramelised ginger ice-cream.
A versatile food offer to cope with passengers travelling to and from different time zones will also be available throughout the other five lounges - First Lounge, incorporating the Gold Bar covered in gold leaf and lit by a Swarovski crystal chandelier and the Champagne Bar (542 seats), three Club Lounges (the largest has 830 seats) and the Arrivals Lounge (156 seats). With a total of 2,500 seats, the lounges at T5 have a 25% greater capacity than those in T1 and T4 combined.
The Arrivals Lounge offers a full restaurant for first class and Premier card holders, and a self-service breakfast bar serving hot and cold food for Club World and Gold Executive Club members. A key feature here is the hydrotherapy area, where passengers can refresh after a long flight in one of the 94 showers or six infinity bathrooms. A suit-pressing valet service is also available here. Two Elemis Travel Spas in T5A and a smaller version in T5B will provide relaxing and revitalising treatments specially created for BA to combat the dehydrating effect and stress of flying.
For BAA, the opening of T5 is just the beginning of a new customer-friendly Heathrow Airport. Work has already begun on the complete redesign and refurbishment of the other terminal buildings, ensuring the entire airport will be overhauled in time for the Olympics in 2012.
Costa, which has 30 stores in airports, enjoys a prominent position in the arrivals area
Food and drink outlets at Terminal 5
There's no place for the tired and tatty food courts of old at T5. In their place are 22 stylishly designed food and beverage outlets. The emphasis on healthy, freshly produced food is backed up by the fact that there are no traditional fast-food burger restaurants. BAA took the decision to ban deep-fat friers in all its terminal buildings following a major fire caused by the build-up of fat in an extractor fan in a Burger King outlet in T1 in 1997.
Another consideration for all operators is the fact that all produce has to be checked in via the Heathrow Consolidation Centre (HCC), two miles from T5. Here, the goods will be security-scanned before being delivered by BAA in temperature-controlled vans. The restaurants should receive ingredients within three hours of their delivery to HCC.
"Terminal 5 offers a dynamic food and beverage experience," says Catherine Peachey, head of category for food and beverage for BAA Retail.
"With the signing of outlets such as Gordon Ramsay, Carluccio's and Wagamama, I believe the terminal will set a gold standard in airport food and beverage."
Public eating and drinking areas include:
- Amato - It's something of a coup for this authentic Italian café, with just one other outlet in Soho, London, to secure a position in T5. As well as serving coffee, cakes and pastries, it offers a cake-ordering service for passengers to collect after their return flight.
- Apostrophe - Described as a "sandwich boutique", Apostrophe bakes all items fresh on site and uses no prepackaged goods. Its omelette-filled croissant - a best seller at its central London stores - is expected to do well here.
- Bagel Street - This Soho-loft-inspired outlet (think brick wall, comfy sofas and modern art) of the growing chain of New York-style stores sells soups, salads, juices, smoothies and coffee, as well as bagels.
- Caviar House & Prunier Seafood Bar - In addition to its core seafood offering, there's a focus on fresh, nutritional and energising ingredients, with a new concept Juice Bar added on to its Terminal 5B restaurant.
- Caffe Nero - Coffees and snacks are served in a store depicting some of London's most famous scenes.
- Carluccio's - This, the 36th Carluccio's, marks the company's first foray into airport catering. The 94-seat restaurant will serve authentic Italian takeaway items such as focaccias, panini and tortas, as well as antipasti, salads, pastas and grilled dishes
- Costa - The country's largest and fastest-growing coffee shop brand with nearly 700 outlets, including 30 stores in airports, has a prominent position in the arrivals area. A team of 60 staff, who are keeping the outlet operational 24 hours a day, expect to serve 15,000 customers during the next seven days.
- EAT - Home-made soups, salads and sandwiches, plus coffees, teas and fresh juices are available at this, its fifth outlet in a UK airport.
- Geronimo - The 5 Tuns Pub and Kitchen - Following the success of pub ventures in Heathrow's T1 and T3, Geronimo has launched the 5 Tuns to provide great value food.
- Giraffe - Aimed at families, the menu at the 220-seat Giraffe is offering an exclusive range of gourmet club sandwiches and fast and fresh dishes not found in its other 24 outlets. Also on offer are hearty brunch dishes, mezze plates, burgers and salads.
- Giraffe Juice - Following the opening of the first Giraffe Juice at Stansted Airport, this outlet will offer "on the hoof" menu choices including coffee, made-to-order juices and smoothies, sandwiches, wraps and pastries.
- Gordon Ramsay Plane Food - Occupying the largest space of all the restaurants in T5, at 700sq m, the 180-seat fine-dining Plane Food will cater for all travellers, from those with only a few minutes to spare before boarding or for those with hours to wait between connecting flights. Nathan Johnson, under the leadership of Stuart Gillies of Boxwood Café, will head up the kitchen brigade, who will use solid-top induction cookers as a result of the ban on naked flames. Brunch dishes will include brioche French toast, treacle-cured bacon and maple syrup and rare roast beef, foie gras, truffle mayonnaise, toasted Poilâne and plum tomato sandwich. For lunch, passengers can enjoy risotto of butternut squash, Parmesan and amaretti braised pork cheeks with honey and cloves, grain mustard pomme purée, and hot chocolate mousse with honeycomb ice-cream.
- Huxley's - A concept designed for T5, this British brasserie is focusing on traditional and regional dishes. Highlights will include afternoon tea.
- Itsu - This is the first airport outlet for the sushi concept, which has restaurants across central London. The store offers Asian-inspired options and a take-away service, designed for carrying on board the plane.
- JD Wetherspoon - Wetherspoon's is operating two pubs. The larger one, Crown Rivers, in the main terminal, has a broad food menu and bottled and draught beers, while the bar in T5B will offer spirits and beers.
- Krispy Kreme - The fast-growing doughnut brand is featuring a customised, limited-edition T5 doughnut, the Strawberry Promise.
- Lovejuice - T5's smallest food and beverage outlet, in a space occupying 56sq m, offers freshly made smoothies and juices.
- M&S Simply Food - Situated in arrivals, the store will enable passengers to pick up a snack or ingredients on their way out of the airport.
- Pret a Manger - A view through to the preparation area will allow passengers to see all sandwiches, salads and soups being freshly prepared.
- Starbucks - While the coffee menu is familiar from its high-street stores, the contemporary look of this outlet - with its natural and autumnal tones - is a first for the UK.
- V-Bar - Especially created for T5, it offers Mediterranean-inspired tapas dishes and a cocktail bar.
- Wagamama - This is the Asian-inspired noodle bar's first airport outlet. An exclusive breakfast menu includes traditional Japanese dishes, coconut cream porridge and a familiar English breakfast.
Staff catering at Terminal 5
Healthy choices and plenty of fresh ingredients are a key element of the food offer for more than 16,000 BAA and other staff based at T5.
Eurest, the staff catering division of Compass Group, is running the staff catering after winning a five-year contract worth £50m in total turnover.
Staff can select food from two restaurants, two Ritazza barista-service coffee bars and three Amigo convenience shops. The largest restaurant, serving 4,000 covers a day, incorporates six servery areas, the Delite Deli grab-and-go shop, and Escape, a premium bar.
The emphasis in the restaurants is on traditional and home-cooked favourites such as fisherman's pie, steak and Guinness sausages with colcannon, and garlic- and rosemary-studded shoulder of lamb. There are also 22 items each day on the salad bar.