Navigating Heathrow

Air Canada's 777-300, Not as big as the double decker planes but pretty frigging big all the same

Air Canada’s 777-300, Not as big as the double decker planes but pretty frigging big all the same

No matter how many times I’ve come through London Heathrow, to change terminals I always seem to get it wrong somewhere along the way. I could use the excuse that it changes over the years as they renovate or I could say that I was used to Terminal 3 to Terminal 1 changes and then had to get used to changing to T5 in the past couple of years. But no. I think I’ll blame the long overnight flight.

I flew this time from Halifax in what must be Air Canada’s largest jet, a 777-300 which can, apparently, seat 500 when full. It wasn’t and the back where I was had loads of empty space so people were all spread out and comfy. I had three seats to myself. I watched a movie and then tried to doze a bit. Not sure if I did.

We were a little late getting in because there was a delay out of Halifax due to some de-icing and we had to wait a short while for the arrival gate as well. It takes pretty much a good hour minimum to get through Heathrow if you are changing terminals. You deplane and follow the purple Flight Connections signs and it’s fairly simple though a bit of a trek through the long corridors. You descend an escalator to an area where you get a shuttle bus to the next terminal, a 10 minute right through the working underguts of the airport.

Again, when arriving at the next terminal you need to follow the same purple flight connection signs and there’s where it all falls apart for me.  Somehow I seem to get into the wrong passport queue nearly every time. It usually happens when I’ve either got a tight connection or when the terminal is heaving with crowds. It’s a busy place even when it’s “quiet” woe betide you if you arrive on a morning when it looks like Trafalgar Square on New Year’s Eve.

If you don’t hold a British or EU passport, you need the “other passports” line which is usually the longest and slowest but at least there are lots of border guards so the line does move well. When I arrived at Terminal 5 this morning, I went to the first large queue I saw. It took about 10 minutes to snake through but I was a bit confused when he asked me what time my connection was and if I was leaving the terminal. Um. No. Right, I was in the wrong queue for connections.

Out of that one and down a little further and into another queue, shorter but with only one person doing the check in at first. Soon, though, there were two more and I made it through that one. This time, I got to skip one of the usual queues because my Air Canada web check in gave me both boarding passes, that’s a first. Since British Airways has been doing the Manchester flip, up to the last time I came through, I had to stand in another long queue to get the boarding pass once I got to T5. This time I had both so that saved me time.

You have to get your eye-retina scan thingy which only takes a second and then you go through the security scan, unloading and unpacking stuff like your laptop, liquids, maybe shoes, etc. Finally I can sit with a cup of tea and cool off. It’s always hot and sweating working my way through the crowds. I like to make sure I have several hours between flights to ensure that I am not rushing on a late arrival. I hate that kind of stress!

The next flight for me is pretty short, though not that comfortable as a rule. Today, that flight wasn’t very full, either, so I had the three seats to myself. Result! and thanks to the Travel Gods. My Luggage made it through with me too, that’s the Luggage Gods at work there!


14 thoughts on “Navigating Heathrow

  1. CanadianTravelBugs says:

    They should have someone to help direct people to help with the confusion… which would save you time and the people working there!
    We had good travel gods too. We went to Hong Kong for 4 days and although it rained really hard for the entire trip we managed to land and take off at the right time and avoid the delays and redirections.
    Have a safe trip.

    • Tvor says:

      There are people around to help direct but the problem comes when I think I know where I’m going so I don’t ask and then find I’m in the wrong place!

      • CanadianTravelBugs says:

        LOL I guess never trust a tired mind ?
        Once we came across a person singing to direct people at Pearson Airport… it was so cool. Or maybe it was just me after being on a 14 hour flight ;)

        • Tvor says:

          Pearson Airport is very likely conducive to hallucinations! I hate that airport! Yes, a tired mind is a dangerous thing. It’s not so bad coming from T5 to T3 to leave the UK, it seems a lot more straight forward because there’s no passport control to deal with, just security scans.

  2. Jaspa says:

    I’ve just got back from a trip to the UK via Heathrow. I have to say that it’s so much nicer arriving/departing through Terminal 5 these days… Terminal 3 is long overdue for refurbishment.

  3. Heyjude says:

    I hate airports – any airport. In fact I don’t much like flying any more either, but it has to be done if I am to travel anywhere but the UK. T5 is OK though, even better if you go to one of the business lounges :)

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