Virgin Atlantic ‘enhances’ Heathrow annexe

Virgin Atlantic has revealed further details of its newly designed south annexe at London Heathrow airport’s Terminal 3, which is due to open this autumn.

The terminal, which has been designed in conjunction with London-based architect Foster & Partners, will include a state-of-the-art drive-through facility for its upper-class passengers and an ‘intuitive’ check-in process for all other Virgin flyers, which aims to reduce queuing times.

Efficiency and enhancing the passenger experience are at the heart of the revamp, according to Virgin Atlantic senior design manager Jeremy Brown.

He says that construction of the new glass-fronted annexe has now been completed and is ‘much wider, brighter and more spacious’, which he hopes will improve the experience of checking in and make it ‘harmonious and relaxing’.

Upper-class passengers will arrive at the first floor of the terminal in chauffeur-driven Virgin limousines, where Virgin ‘hosts’ – an intrinsic part of the ‘service design’ – will greet them with boarding cards, so they receive the luxury ‘Virgin experience’ from start to finish.

‘We are creating a much greater Virgin brand presence,’ Brown explains. He describes a ‘ribbon of material’ that will follow the passengers all the way through the terminal, from where the car drops them off, through the interior to the security check-in, so ‘as soon as passengers step over the threshold they will enter the Virgin world. It’s an attempt to cater to the imagination, so they forget the grey, dirt and noise of the airport environment’, says Brown.

This represents a progression from the award-winning £11m Virgin clubhouse, designed in partnership with Softroom architecture last year.

Catering largely to the top end of the market, Virgin’s Terminal 3 overhaul aims to represent a definitive leap from the overcrowded budget airline experience. According to Joe Ferry, head of the Virgin design team, ‘The strength of Virgin is that we are exclusively a long-haul carrier and there are a vast number of people these days who are prepared to invest a lot more in luxury travel to make the most of their time away. They don’t want to queue, they just want to get their tickets as quickly as possible and start spending money in duty free.’

Virgin estimates that the majority of its passengers will move through check-in and into the departure lounge in less than 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, construction is almost complete on British Airways’ ambitious 396m-long Terminal 5 building, designed by Richard Rogers and due to open next March.

• Virgin’s in-house design team has worked with Foster & Partners to create the development
• The terminal will be unveiled by the end of the year
• It will include a drive-through facility for upper class passengers and a check-in facility for other Virgin flyers
• It aims to be ‘wider, brighter and more spacious’, and Virgin estimates that the majority of people will be through check-in and into the departure lounge in less than 15 minutes

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