Heathrow Airport plans to reopen Terminal 4 this month as a dedicated terminal for passengers arriving from 'red zone' countries with high levels of COVID-19 infection.
The move follows a trial of 'red zone' arrivals at Terminal 3, which will then return to being a more conventional arrivals and departures terminal for other passengers and airlines.
This is expected to include Virgin Atlantic and Delta Air Lines, both of which rely heavily on flights between London and the USA, ahead of an anticipated restart for trans-Atlantic travel with the backing of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and US President Joe Biden, with a joint task force to explore options to resume travel between their countries.
However, Executive Traveller understands that Virgin's Heathrow Clubhouse and Upper Class Wing will temporarily remain closed even once the airline is back at T3.
Speaking at today's CAPA Live forum, Heathrow Airport CEO John Holland-Kaye said the T3 trial had "worked well over the last week, with the four countries being involved in that pilot, and we hope that that will work well as we scale up and then move over to Terminal 4 later this month."
Holland-Kaye said that during the trial, T4 was being prepared "to act as a red arrivals facility that can be dedicated just for those passengers."
"From now on, anyone coming in from a red list country will be able to come in on a direct flight and that will take them straight to the red arrivals facility, where they can be looked after in a much more efficient way by Border Force and taken onto hotel quarantine."
"And, of course, that means that we can have much better segregation between red, amber, and green passengers."
Heathrow Terminal 4 has been closed since May 8 2020, with most airlines shifting operations to Terminal 2 – although over the past 13 months, all airlines have wound back their UK flying schedule and many have suspended flights altogether.
T3 was closed in April 2020, with most airlines – among them American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Finnair and Virgin Atlantic – relocated to Terminal 2.
"Red list routes will likely be a feature of UK travel for the foreseeable future as countries vaccinate their populations at different rates," Heathrow Airport said in a statement last month. "We're adapting Heathrow to this longer-term reality."