Sale at Heathrow Terminal 1. Everything Must Go.
Posted April 20, 2018 1:34 p.m. EDT
LONDON — Are you in the market for several baggage claim carousels, escalators, murals, check-in counters, clocks, not-quite-comfortable chairs, passport scanners and signs that declare “Nothing to declare”?
Then an auction of the entire contents of London Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 1 may appeal to you. Everything — every chair, every door, every single thing — is on sale to the highest bidder starting on Saturday.
When Queen Elizabeth II formally dedicated Terminal 1 in 1969, it was among the biggest and most modern in Europe. Called “a beacon of British innovation” by the organizer of the sale, CA Global Partners, it was capable of shepherding 9 million passengers a day, during a time when romantic notions about air travel were at their peak.
But now, the terminal, which shut down 2015, is set for demolition as part of an upgrade project.
Daniel Gray of CA Global Partners told the BBC that “a sale comprising the entire contents and infrastructure of an entire major airport terminal is unprecedented.”
The first in a series of auctions will take place this weekend. On the block will be objects that may have once evoked pleasant memories — like a Sega arcade game console — and some that may have inspired fury and frowns, like the clocks that could tell passengers how late their flights were taking off.
Bids can be placed online or at the auction, to be held at the Aviation Suite at the Thistle London Heathrow Terminal 5 Hotel.
“With this first memorabilia auction, it will definitely be people who are enthusiasts — also some of the staff who worked there in its heyday,” Julia Macquisten, director of Lucas Field Media, which represents CA Global Partners, said in an email on Thursday.
More functional and bulky objects will be sold later. Among them: 110 check-in desks with scales and baggage belts, 11 baggage reclaim carousels, 15 escalators, gates, piers and complete air bridges.
Security equipment like full-body scanners and automatic passport gates will be available through private treaty sales after a security check of the buyers.
One may wonder who would want to buy reminders of sometimes frustrating moments spent lining up at the “U.K. Border” sign or staring at an empty luggage carousel.
“Some of the larger items in future auctions will be more popular with other airports,” Macquisten wrote. “We are also thinking some bars and clubs might be interested in the seating if they want some retro memorabilia in their establishments.”
Most of the artifacts are mundane, to be sure. But observers with imagination can find intriguing messages in the signs saying, “Nothing to declare” or “All Departure Gates.” Or they may find nostalgia in airline signs for Aer Lingus, TAM, Icelandair, US Airways, Air New Zealand, El Al and others.
Most of the items date to after the 1960s, but there are some exceptions, like enamel murals specially commissioned for the airport and created by Stefan Knapp, a Polish-born artist who lived and worked in Britain.
The most popular items in the early bidding wars were the clocks and a departure sign, which had attracted 141 bids by midday Friday.
By contrast, few people seemed to want a keepsake from airport security: A foot stool used to check shoes had three bids Friday. The auction could well be a hit overall if past sales linked to air travel are any guide. After Germany’s AirBerlin — the country’s second-largest airline — went bankrupt last year, a sale of its assets attracted bids from 45 countries.
The chocolate hearts the airline used to hand out to passengers went for as much as 352 euros ($435) for a box of 100.
In addition, decommissioned parts of Concorde, the supersonic passenger aircraft, have been sold at several auctions. The catalog for a charity sale in 2003 in London by Bonhams included everything from flight instruments to cutlery and a case of wine served on board.
As for Terminal 1, it did not age well. By the time it shut down, it was handling 17 flights and 1,700 passengers a day. Its shiny, neon-lit interiors with slick lines and fixtures gave way to a patchwork of old and new surfaces.
For travelers, in the final years, the terminal was more of a drab point of transit to rush through than a place to linger.
The fate of the building, at the center of one of the busiest airports in the world, was sealed long before the coming auction. It will be demolished and the site used for the expansion of the redeveloped Terminal 2.
The original Terminal 2, known at first as the Europa Building, was the airport’s first terminal building when it opened in 1955. It was closed to the public in 2009 and demolished in 2010, with its replacement opening in 2014. The hope is that with its expansion, it will handle about 30 million passengers.