Airline boss brands Heathrow a ‘Second World War’ terminal that’s ‘not good enough’ for customer experience

Terminal 3 was opened for long-haul routes in the 1960s  (CabService London)
Terminal 3 was opened for long-haul routes in the 1960s (CabService London)

The boss of one of the world’s largest airlines has launched a scathing attack on Heathrow, comparing its level of customer service to something that would be found in a rundown post-World War Two airport.

Sir Tim Clark, the head of Emirates, blamed those in charge of Britain’s busiest airport of prioritising shareholders and the payment of dividends over the state of the aviation hub.

The UAE flag carrier is based out of Terminal 3.

“I was at Heathrow the other day and walking out of our lounge the ceiling height is awful,” Sir Tim told The Times.

“It looks like a utilitarian structure, post-Second World War. It is just not good enough.”

He blasted the airport as “seriously lagging behind” when it comes to how customers experience travelling through and called for a major reconfiguration to improve the situation.

“It’s an old airport. I’m afraid it’s very difficult. You need to open up the whole terminal. Where we are based, new airports are being built employing the latest technologies to streamline the process of all the customer-facing elements. That is not the case at Heathrow.”

Sir Tim would also want the plaza at Terminal 3 reduced in size to allow more room for security and check-in, reports The Times.

A Heathrow spokesperson said: “Every pound we want to spend on improving airport facilities needs approval from our regulator. Despite having our proposals cut back in the current regulatory settlement, we will still invest £3.6bn upgrading our infrastructure over the next three years. We will continue to invest and to work with our airline partners to build an airport fit for the future.”

In April, Heathrow Airport said it had swung to a first quarter profit and upped its outlook for full-year passenger growth after notching up its busiest start to the year.

The company posted pre-tax profits of £189 million for the three months to March 31 – traditionally a quiet season for the sector – against losses of £60 million a year ago.

It said the group enjoyed a record-breaking quarter, with passenger numbers up 9.5 per cent to 18.5 million.

By November 2023, Heathrow reported that it was the fourth busiest airport in the world, seeing a huge jump when compared with passenger figures in October 2022 and less than 1 per cent below the pre-pandemic figure from October 2019.

Earlier this year, the Civil Aviation Authority said that passenger charges in place at Heathrow for the next two years could be cut by 6 per cent.

Charges are paid by airlines but are generally passed on to passengers in air fares.

If the proposals are implemented, average charges per passenger would be cut by around £1.52 to £23.72 in 2025, and by £1.58 to £23.70 in 2026.