After months of dress rehearsals that included passenger trials, baggage stress tests, and familiarization sessions for airport staff, the gates of the sparkling new terminal at Heathrow Airport are poised to open Wednesday to inaugurate a new era in British flying.
Passengers flying United Airlines will be the first to tread the halls of the new Terminal 2, or "The Queen's Terminal," on Wednesday, as the carrier will operate 17 arriving and departing flights shuttling 6,000 travelers on the first day -- or 10 percent of the terminal's total flight volume.
Eventually, the new terminal will become home to 26 airlines -- most of which are Star Alliance members -- as well as Aer Lingus, Germanwings and Virgin Atlantic Little Red.
When fully operational, The Queen's Terminal will operate 332 daily flights to 54 global destinations.
Among the terminal's 'world firsts' is the highly anticipated opening of Heston Blumenthal's first airport restaurant, The Perfectionists' Café, modeled after his food TV show "In Search of Perfection."
The restaurant will serve popular dishes like fish and chips, wood-fire oven pizza, and burgers that have been reinvented and perfected with the help of science.
Other highlights include the opening of a John Lewis store, a British department store chain, and the first personal shopping lounge where flyers can shop with the help of a personal shopper in a private consultation suite.
Overall, the terminal will be home to 33 high-end retailers including iconic British brands such as Cath Kidston, Ted Baker and Burberry, as well as 17 food and drink outlets. It's built to handle 20 million passengers.
The £2.5 billion (US$4.2 billion) terminal marks the last phase of an £11 billion (US$18.4 billion) project.
Queen Elizabeth will visit the terminal June 23 for a royal opening.
The Heathrow opening follows on another hotly anticipated airport expansion this year.
After much delay and $15.5 billion in expenses, Qatar's Hamad International Airport welcomed its first passengers last month.
The airport hopes to handle 50 million passengers by the time work is completed in 2020.