From Heathrow With Love – Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter
Last month, I attended an ultimate behind-the-scenes airport tour, courtesy of London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR). LHR’s Digital Communications Manager, Chris Loy, welcomed a select group of aviation publications to showcase its daily operations and on behalf of AirlineReporter I was thrilled to be a part of it.
Control Tower – Photo: LHR Airports Limited
I always enjoy traveling through LHR, especially Terminal 5 (T5), and revel in what is generally a calm and serene travel experience. This is despite handling more than 75 million passengers and about 1.5 million tons of cargo (the non self-loading variety) per year.
I compare this to the utter chaos that is London’s Luton Airport (LTN) while they undergo extensive construction, or the holiday-maker maelstrom that is Gatwick Airport (LGW) during the summer. That said, I have never transited through LHR. Nor have I ever suffered from any extensive flight delays at the airport.
“Yes, transiting is an operational challenge at Heathrow,” remarks LHR Filming Coordinator and Airside Safety Officer, Joe Audcent. “The airfield is just so big from one end to another.” Chris and Joe would be our intrepid tour guides and I was looking forward to learning more about my hometown airport.
A Lufthansa A340 gets prepped for flight at the airport during snow – Photo: Andrew Poure
You’re sitting on a airliner preparing to depart from a major hub in the U.S. midwest, staring out the window. On a clear spring day, you’d pushback and be off the ground in moments, and see the shining Great Lakes and expanses of green fields and trees immediately after takeoff. That day is not today.
No, the scene out your window is white and grey as far as the eye can see. Amber and red strobe lights, from both aircraft and ground vehicles, add to the almost surreal landscape. It’s winter in the northern states.
Clayton Scott Field in Renton, WA
As an airport manager, and on behalf of airport management all over the country, I wanted to take a moment and say thank you! If you have flown commercially recently, then this message of gratitude is specifically for you.
Well, because you are directly contributing to the financial well-being of the airport. And no, I am not talking about supporting the airlines, who in turn pay the airport to offer their services. And I am not referring to your purchase of concessions in the terminal before your flight, or the fee you paid to park, or for gazing at the advertising that companies pay the airport top dollar for.
Rather, I am talking about a nominal fee that is applied to your ticket that goes directly into the airport’s coffers. This fee is the “Passenger Facility Charge” or PFC, and it’s a huge lever in commercial airport infrastructure investment.
It is also a white-hot topic nationally for airports and airlines, as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approaches the end of its temporary authorization in March of 2016.
Mormons greet returning missionaries at Salt Lake City International Airport – Photo: Cory Doctorow | FlickrCC
I like flying, but it is also tiring. If I have had a few connections (perhaps some missed connections), a bumpy flight, long layovers, or an extra early wake up call, I’m worn out. When I land, I just want to get off a plane, grab my bags, and get home. I really don’t want anything to get in my way. As I’m walking down the concourse, the last thing I want is for people to hinder me. Get out of my way! You’re not here to greet me.
But, let’s consider both sides of an issue – how should groups behave as a welcoming party at an airport. Sure there are some single folks waiting for their loved one and you also get the families waiting for a child flying by themselves. Going a bit larger (and louder) you can find military service members, who have been gone for a long time, receiving a wonderful “welcome back.” All these people are deserving of welcomings, but can it go too far? How can an airport make it a win-win for everyone? And is there a limit where people should be respecting other passengers? Let’s take a look at an airport close to me, the big homecomings at Salt Lake City International Airport.