Olympics: Athletes to avoid Heathrow's 'busiest day'

Hundreds of Olympic athletes and coaches have been forced to make alternative plans to leave London because Heathrow can't cope with the mass exodus following the Games.

Major teams, including Australia, China and Canada, are booking private charter flights from Stansted in Essex to avoid the congestion, the Evening Standard reported.

The New Zealand Olympic team is not among the nations making alternative plans.

Heathrow - the official gateway of the Olympics - is bracing for the busiest day in its history on August 13, the day after the Olympic closing ceremony.

The airport normally averages 95,000 departing passengers a day but will have to handle 138,000 on that day.

The extra volume has led to 10,000 flights being diverted to other airports during the northern summer and Heathrow has banned charter and private flights completely during the Games.

Star athletes such as American swimmer Michael Phelps, Swiss tennis player Roger Federer and the US Olympic basketball team were all expected to avoid Heathrow and depart from Stansted.

A spokesman for Heathrow's owners BAA said: "We made the decision not to accommodate charter planes or private jets during the Games period to ensure our scheduled flights timetable can be protected during this extremely challenging time.

"Eighty per cent of all Games passengers will pass through Heathrow which already operates at 99.2 per cent capacity.''

A spokesperson for Stansted told the Evening Standard the airport will be ready for the teams.

"It's no loss of prestige for Heathrow because they get 80 per cent of the Games family. Any airports would be happy with that although they might be nervous about the challenge.

"[Stansted is] a good alternative and you are not parking someone on the south coast or sending them to Manchester."

New Zealand Olmypic Committee communications manager Ashley Abbott said the New Zealand team will be flying out of Heathrow on a number of flights in the days following the closing ceremony, with the bulk of athletes departing for Auckland on August 13.

- Herald Online, AAP

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf03 at 29 Nov 2014 21:59:49 Processing Time: 532ms