London's Heathrow airport braced for Olympics exodus
LONDON (Reuters) - London's Heathrow airport is braced for one its busiest ever days on Monday with around 15,000 Olympic athletes and officials expected to leave the capital following the end of the Games.
Heathrow owner BAA expects Europe's busiest airport to handle around 116,000 departures on Monday, compared with an average of 95,000 departures on a normal day. Heathrow's record is 123,000 departing passengers, which was set on July 29, 2011.
Olympic competitors and officials will use Heathrow's purpose built Games terminal, which has 31 desks and seven security lanes. Some 6,000 athletes were able to check in their baggage at the Olympic Village in east London on Sunday night.
BAA believes baggage handling will be its main challenge with athletes expected to leave with more than three bags per person, including oversized sports equipment.
BAA, owned by Spanish infrastructure group Ferrovial (FER.MC), said the departing athletes would be treated to a special London-themed send-off after being clapped into each terminal by a guard of honour made up of Heathrow volunteers.
"Olympic departures present a fresh challenge with new facilities like the Games terminal being used for the first time. We have been preparing for seven years to deliver a farewell of which the whole country can be proud," BAA chief executive Colin Matthews said.
The Games terminal will be decommissioned after three days of operation and returned to its original use as a staff car park.
BAA's Matthews last month said Heathrow had coped well with the influx of passengers flying into London for the Games.
Gatwick, London's second biggest airport, has drafted in extra staff to help with an increase in departures on Monday and the challenge presented by the large number and size of the athletes' bags expected. (Reporting by Rhys Jones; editing by James Davey)