London has risen to the top position in being the most visited tourist destination in the world and as such there can be little doubt that its main gateway, Heathrow Airport is the busiest airport on this planet in terms of international passenger numbers. This major international airport located in west London is also the busiest airport in Europe by passenger traffic. It handled a record 73.4 million passengers in 2014 which was a 1.4 percent jump from 2013. As of September 2014, it was the third busiest internationally behind Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and Beijing Capital International Airport. In 2011, it was the busiest airport in Europe in total passenger traffic with 13.9% more passengers than Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris and 23% more than Frankfurt Airport. However, in terms of total aircraft movements it was in second place behind Charles de Gaulle in 2011 with 5.1% lesser landings and take offs than the French airport. In 2013, it was the third busiest European airport by cargo traffic trailing behind Paris Charles de Gaulle and Frankfurt.
In 2014, Heathrow processed 73,405,330 passengers including 32,234 transit passengers and the most popular destination was New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport at 2,972,729 passengers. Although it is one of the busiest air routes in the world, it amounts to only 4% of all passenger traffic at Heathrow in 2014 and even the top 10 routes combined amounted to only 23% of passenger traffic.
Heathrow Airport’s origin is very much connected with the military but its operations started during the First World War and not the Second. Although the site had been used by the Air Force, it has always supported commercial air services. Any future expansion of the airport has however been restricted due to faulty planning in the initial stages when it was set up after the decline of the Croydon site nearby. At that time, many runways were needed in a star formation for the aviation planes to take off in any direction of the wind. The airport cannot be expanded because of the central location of its terminal between runways. As such, any expansion can only take place outside the airport site. However, Heathrow is the busiest airport in the country with five terminals that are full of shops, restaurants and car hire desks.
More than 90 airlines operate from the airport flying to 170 destinations worldwide. It is the primary hub of British Airways and is a base for Virgin Atlantic. With four passenger terminals and a cargo terminal, Heathrow handled 73.4 million passengers in 2014 out of which 93% were international travellers and the remaining 7% were bound for destinations in the country. New York is the biggest destination in passenger numbers as more than 3 million passengers travelled between Heathrow and JFK Airport in 2013.
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When Heathrow was first planned, the aspect of passenger cars and car hire services was not incorporated into the structure as using the planes as a mode of travel was quite expensive and mostly undertaken by the rich and famous. As such, it was assumed that passengers would only arrive in chauffer driven limousines. But as air travel became cheaper with the passage of time, it was decided to add Heathrow into the expansive British road network so that onward travel could be faster. As M25 London ring road was close to Heathrow Airport, travellers could easily use a private vehicle or a hire car to reach the capital and other destinations throughout the country. In order to meet the growing needs of travellers, many essential services such as hotels, car hire desks and conference centres have been incorporated. As a result of all these developments, Heathrow has become a major employer in the local area and it employs thousands of Londoners. Terminal 5 of the airport was opened only recently basically to host British Airways flights and to house different services such as eateries and car hire. The terminal has links to both the London Underground and Overground rail services and the national road network.
Being the busiest airport in the world in terms of international passengers, Heathrow Airport generates a lot of revenue especially because of the hosting of car hire desks, shops and restaurants. As it handles a large number of international flights it has the opportunity to make a profit from the needs of the passengers. It is truly a leading airport in the world as regards passenger numbers and flight movements and is the most important link in the air transportation network in UK. It handles more passengers annually than the total of what the two next airports handle together. It is expected that the airport will continue to grow despite its star shaped design by making innovative use of the space available at the site.
Heathrow Airport is home to chaplains belonging to different faiths such as Anglican, Catholic, Free Church, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh religions. It also has a multi-faith prayer room and counselling room in each terminal apart from the St George’s Inter-denominational Chapel in the underground vault adjacent to the old control tower where Christian services are held. On some occasions, the chaplains organise and lead prayers in the prayer room.
Heathrow Airport also has its own resident press corps having six photographers and one TV crew that serve all the major television stations and the major newspapers around the world.