Heathrow is one of the world's busiest airports and in terms of the UK is easily the busiest along the lines of flight and passenger numbers. As the UK's most important link in the air transportation network Heathrow Airport is a literal melting point, full of people from different cultures and countries; all these people are located in Heathrow for the reason of air travel, and the chance to fly to almost anywhere in the world.
As an airport so close to London the airport also acts serving the needs of Britain's capital, allowing residents to fly out to a variety of different global destinations. Another role of Heathrow is to employ people from the surrounding area; these people work directly for the airport in supporting services but auxiliary companies, such as car hire firms, shops and restaurants also employ a considerable number of local residents.
A with many of the airports within the UK Heathrow can trace its early development with the military. In the First World War the site was used predominantly as a training facility for the first true generation of military pilots. In addition to this role though, the site saw a large amount of different research and development activities. These roles, and the accompanying facilities needed for them meant that the site was ripe for development in the post war years as a commercial airport.
However at this time Heathrow was not the preferred airport for travellers. Croydon was seen as the premier airfield serving London and did so for the majority of inter war years. It was in fact the Second World War that meant the site would become the most important airport in the UK. Research and development continued throughout the war, facilities were enhanced meaning that once the war had come to an end, Heathrow had the suitable equipment and layout to cope with the larger passenger planes that had come into existence. As a result, the site was chosen by the government as the major airport for the country. This meant considerable development would occur on the site, not least the construction of shops, restaurants and car hire facilities.
In the fifties the Queen laid the first slabs for the new runway at Heathrow Airport. The reason a new runway was needed due to the introduction of the jet plane. As the jet age was ushered in Heathrow was at the forefront of accommodating the new planes. Even so air travel at this time was still the reserve of the rich and famous.
The result of this marginalisation of air travel was that the original designers of the first terminals felt that a car park would not be needed on the site, the understanding being that passengers would arrive in chauffeur driven limousines. Today however car parking space has been created on the site, to accommodate passenger vehicles and car hire fleets.
From this time onwards the continuous development of Heathrow Airport led the site to become the UK's predominant airport. Inclusions such as powered walkways, the first anywhere in the world, and docks for the large Boeing 747 maintained this position of primacy. Today it is estimated that around seventy million passengers use the airport annually. As a result many auxiliary services such as shops, restaurants and car hire desks have been built up as a way to improve the income of the airport's owners.
While Heathrow Airport is currently facing competition from airports such as Stansted and Gatwick, it has been able to hold onto its position as the number one airport within the UK. Handling more than double the number of passengers than any of its rivals this situation is set to continue in the future.
Travel expert Thomas Pretty studies how car hire Heathrow Airport services are an important addition to the facilities present at the site.