T2 or Not T2? That’s the Customer Experience Question

Transport, Travel & Tourism Blog

Lynn Tweedale

Have you heard of the new Heathrow Terminal 2?  …Except for the name of the stop on the Piccadilly line tube…?  No – me hardly either, and for someone than can walk to the airport, I’m wondering how I’ve missed it…or has it been a deliberate action to keep it so hush hush?

Admittedly, about 5 years ago, I received a DVD through my door with an artist’s grand impression of how the old terminals 1 and 2 were to become ‘Heathrow East’, which I eagerly sat down to watch, popcorn in hand.  But since then, alas…like the ‘perfect’ guy you meet on a date…silence.

We all recall the hype when T5 opened its doors, and the resulting PR overdrive to dampen the debacle it became…perhaps it’s because Heathrow Airport Holdings didn’t want to get our hopes up this time with an exaggerated online eHarmony profile for us to discover on the first date he’s not, as stated, tall, dark and handsome?  After all, it was originally thought that the new terminal would be up and running for the 2012 Olympics, but after learning from the opening of Terminal 5, was delayed.

Terminal 2, or ‘The Queen’s Terminal’ as it’s grandly named, opens its doors to its first tentative travellers on 4th June, but after the deflated balloon that T5 became on its first day…how high are we placing our hopes?

It’s recognised that there’s bound to be some teething issues, but it seems plans are in place to mitigate this chance.  The terminal itself has been declared weather tight and systems installed over a year ago.  Extensive trials of all systems have been run, and we’re assured the baggage systems are tried and tested, and some gates have been operational for 4 years already!  I’m impressed.

What I’m more impressed with, as a researcher, is that the force behind the design is an excellent customer experience – something we at Harris help many of our clients in achieving.

“We started by thinking about what passengers really want” said John Holland-Kaye, Development Director, Heathrow Airport.

The hope is that T2 will take the stress out of air travel making it easier and intuitive to get through check-in, security and departures.  Apparently it’ll be possible to go from your car to a glass of Champagne in the departure lounge in about 20 minutes.  …I’m listening!

With ‘next-generation’ informal check-ins where any passenger can use any desk irrespective of carrier, more natural light, more space…and a rather exclusive set of shops and restaurants, some offering meals in 15mins which passengers can take onboard, I’m rather looking forward to experiencing my Heston Blumenthal baguette with my mini (ahem…) bottle of Fizz.

But it’s only the lucky Star Alliance travellers who’ll receive the VIP treatment initially, along with Aer Lingus, Virgin Atlantic’s domestic flights (Little Red) and Germanwings.  Again – this benefits the customer experience as the grouping of alliance partners enables common check-ins and swift transfers between flights.  Additionally, the straight-forward aircraft stand lay-out will allow aircraft to taxi out to the runways more easily, cutting down on delays.

Whilst it remains to be seen how those lucky customers react on the opening day, I’m actually quite excited about the new terminal on my door-step – now I’ve discovered it.  All I need to do now is book my holiday, set my stop-watch, and test the sprint to the departure lounge champagne bar.  Mine’s a French 75 please.

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