By Pete Rigby
Heathrow bosses on Tuesday promised to learn the lessons of the disastrous Terminal 5 (T5) opening when flights begin from the west London's new £2.5 billion Terminal 2 (T2) next year.
The T5 opening in March 2008 proved a disaster, with thousands of bags going astray and long queues for passengers and for staff trying to get into work.
Heathrow chiefs said they had worked hard to learn lessons from the T5 debacle but warned there would still be "challenges" in getting T2 up and running.
T2, which will be home to 26 airlines including Virgin Atlantic, will open on June 4 2014 and will eventually handle 20 million passengers a year.
Mindful of what happened when too much was attempted too soon at T5, Heathrow is opening T2 in stages, with airlines moving in over a six-month period.
Just 10 per cent of flights will operate for the first three weeks of June 2014, before a gradual build up to full operations.
Speaking before hundreds of hard-hatted builders at the T2 site on Tuesday, Heathrow development director John Holland-Kaye, said: "We cannot promise that everything will be perfect on day one but we have a lot more experience now having opened T5.
"But I would not underestimate the challenge we face."
Home to 25,000 staff, T2 is part of an overall project that includes not only the terminal building but also a 1,712ft satellite pier, a 1,340-space car park, an energy centre and a cooling station.
The first flight will land at 5.55am and this will be operated by American carrier United Airlines..
There will be six months of testing of T2, involving 14,000 people, before the opening. By the time of the first flight, the new terminal will have supported 35,000 jobs across the UK.
Check-in will be large enough to accommodate 3,000 passengers an hour and an average of 55,000 passengers will arrive and depart a day. There will be more than 50 shops, as well as 17 bars and restaurants.
Commercial Secretary to the Treasury Lord Deighton said: "Infrastructure is quite rightly at the heart of Government plans. We're investing more, cutting red tape and improving Government capability to deliver major infrastructure projects.
"But the vast majority of investment and delivery capacity lies in the private sector with projects such as T2, which forms part of the Government's Top 40 priority infrastructure investments."
Mr Holland-Kaye said: "The new T2 has been designed around the needs of our passengers, to allow them to get to and from their flights as quickly as possible. Like T5, it will promise world-class customer service and a warm welcome to Britain, which visitors expect from the UK's hub airport.
"This next step in Heathrow's transformation will deliver a better journey for passengers, a more efficient and reliable infrastructure for airlines and additional jobs, trade and economic growth for the UK."