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Heathrow Airport; Jewel In The Crown Of Britain's Transportation Network

Sep 16, 2008
Heathrow airport has held a position of primacy in the UK's air transportation network for over sixty years. It was the site of choice for development and today is regarded by many to be one of, if not the busiest airport in the world. Naturally with such large numbers of international passengers passing through each day Heathrow has an eclectic mix of peoples and cultures. Understandably, with such large numbers of people in any one place, shrewd entrepreneurs have built up a range of services such as shops, restaurants and car hire desks in order to make a profit from travellers.

The history of Heathrow airport is interesting in that it began its life as a military airfield. Sorties from the site however were minimal, at this stage Heathrow was predominantly used for testing and maintenance purposes. During these years the major passenger airport in the country was located in Croydon. Today this airfield is a shadow of its former self, flights no longer leave Croydon and all that remains of the runways are two small patches of tarmac. Heathrow took over Croydon's position of primacy in the forties and since this period has continued to grow and expand. This was due to the fact that the use of Heathrow during the war years and meant that it was better prepared to accommodate the newer more powerful planes.

It was during the fifties that the Queen laid the first tarmac for the new runway. A new runaway was needed in order to cope with the newly built jet engine planes. Jets completely revolutionised air travel, taking a method of transport only for the rich to a way of travelling for one and all. Naturally part of this change, an increase in passenger numbers meant that more auxiliary services such as car hire desks, shops and restaurants were built up in order to capture the newly available profits.

This widening of access to air travel continued into the seventies and the creation of the package holiday. Heathrow at this point was ideally placed to accommodate the large influx of tourists who could now afford to fly to destinations in Europe and beyond. Once again a runway extension had to be added. An extension was needed because the new jets, the Boeing 747 was much larger than any of its predecessors and hence needed a longer runway to take off and land. Once again the growth of air travel meant that airport chiefs were keen to put shops, restaurants and car hire provisions on the site in order to extract larger profits from passengers.

The accommodation of large jets at Heathrow airport is only set to continue with the introduction of the giant Airbus A380. This huge aircraft will require the site to have newly built docking equipment and large areas of apron to allow the plane to taxi. Most of this work has taken place while the new terminal five has been built. This way the terminal is ready for these new planes as soon as the enter air company fleets.

It is estimated that every year Heathrow handles around seventy million passengers. This huge number is more than double that of any other airport in the UK, the closest is Gatwick at just thirty five million. Although the airport's owner BAA is currently facing problems with the competition commission and has been told to sell airports it is certain that they will keep Heathrow. As one of the busiest airports in the world it can truly be considered the jewel in the national transportation network's crown.
About the Author
Air travel expert Thomas Pretty looks at car hire Heathrow airport services and their role in earning profits for the site.
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