The Latest on Heathrow Terminal 5

LHR - London/Heathrow

There were a couple of things that happened in the last week that got me thinking that I needed to write an update on how things were going for British Airways over at London/Heathrow’s Terminal 5. First, my walkthrough of the new Indy airport had me thinking about other recent big terminal openings. And second, I found out that the Telegraph over in the UK named me one of the world’s top 25 travel blogs, and specifically called out my writings on Terminal 5. Did I mention I love the British?

Anyway, I’m sure many of you haven’t been keeping track, but I have been keeping up my chart of Heathrow terminal changes on the site.

Nearly all BA flights have moved to Terminal 5 now including a big move of long haul flights in the last couple of weeks. There are still a handful of moves coming at the end of January, but the bulk of it is done. And now that the changes are nearly complete, it sounds like it’s operating quite well too.

I’ve spoken to three different people in the last couple weeks who have flown through Heathrow’s Terminal 5 and they’ve all had nothing but good things to say about it. It sounds like after the initial problems, they’ve smoothed out quite nicely.

I’m hoping to get out there to take a look sometime next year. For now, has anyone else had good or bad experiences to share?

Get Cranky in Your Inbox!

The airline industry moves fast. Sign up and get every Cranky post in your inbox for free.

23 comments on “The Latest on Heathrow Terminal 5

  1. I flew out to LA and back through T5 as the debacle was subsiding. On hand luggage admittedly. It was lovely: bright and airy, even a lack of lounge access was mitigated by Wagamama and a really nice cocktail at the bar.

  2. Used it for 2 transfers in Sept and both were executed flawlessly.

    Even had time to eat at the Gordon Ramsey restaurant. Excellent!

  3. I had a disasterous arrival there shortly after it opened. Since then, had nothing but excellent experiences.

    Seemingly long lines at immigration move fast (for EU nationals anyway) – never waited more than five minutes. always had luggage waiting for me by the time I’ve cleared immigration.

    The BA lounges (for Club anyway, not flown First) are fantastic – plenty of space and comfy. Never had to wait to pass departures security.

    Some of the flights will still use remote parking stands until 5C opens in a couple of years. This has happened to me once and, while I was initially irritated, it turns out not to be a problem – the bus drops you at an escalator which feeds directly into immigration, so you miss the, sometimes long, walks.

    On the other hand – I’m not sure it’s a building anyone’s ever going to love; it’s just too huge. In particular, arriving at 5B involves rides on seemingly endless escalators. The departures level, with giant spaces dominated by billboard-sized plasma screens, does feel a little like the set of “Blade Runner”.

  4. I flew out and back to T5 in June flying on a trip to Munich. Everything was fine. One thing I felt was the air side was slightly cramped compared to the land side which felt huge and very light. I wonder what it will be like when there are heavy delays and there are lots of people waiting for their flights, it might start to get very crowded. I didn’t use the BA lounges but I have heard they are great.

  5. Longtime reader first time poster. I agree that BAA/BA messed up the opening, but at the same time if you look at recent large terminal openings with complex baggage systems (I’m looking at you Denver), it could have been way worse.

    The thing for me that sets T5 apart is the BA lounges, these are definitely the amongst the elite lounges of the world. In fact only the Virgin clubhouse can compete in my eyes, as Maxwell says plenty of space, great booze selection and good food. Plus you can’t argue with a gold champagne bar. If you take away the lounges its just a recently constructed large efficient terminal.

    Having recently done a long trip round the US i have to say I was shocked by the difference in quality of airline lounges. The admirals clubs and red carpet club i visited wouldn’t even stand up to comparison. Worn furnishings, miserable staff and no free booze!!!

    Cranky – Why is there such a discrepancy between the lounges in Europe and those in the states? Someone once told me that it was because BA’s lounge customers were all traveling long haul. However i don’t buy this because all BA’s shorthaul club passengers and even domestic passengers on a business price ticket are welcome in the lounges. In fact if it wasn’t for the excellent lounge access i doubt i’d fly Club europe, as the onboard product isn’t that different from economy. I can understand AA not wanting to provide free booze and food in a lounge for passengers traveling short haul on a first ticket that only cost a few hundred bucks but what about trans continental flights. For example I flew SAN – BOS a few years back and thats a 5 hr flight yet the lounge in SAN is terrible, there was nothing to eat before the flight and I had to pay for the internet access!

  6. Alex – Thanks for your first comment. I hope to see more. I wish I had an answer for you on why lounges in the US are so much worse. It could just be an extension of the general product inferiority of US airlines, or it could have to do with the ways costs work for airport space in different places. I’m honestly not sure.

    Anyone else have thoughts?

  7. Used T5 for the first time about a month ago and there was a strange, ethereal feel to the place. Whether it was the time of the day, the overcacpacity or simply the design, it was a delight to use and everything was geared to moving large amounts of people through without fuss and with understated elegance.

    True, the airside stores and food outlets are excellent, but I was a little disappointed there weren’t any third party lounge arrangements. It being a BA-only terminal, there are only BA lounges. No Priority Pass love here sadly.

    Oh and we British love you too, Cranky.

  8. First, congrats on being recognized Top25! Here’s hoping you reach Top10 before long.

    Second, other than adding a lounge whenever a new terminal opens – like, how long has that been? – US airlines appear to have been struggling just to stay in business. Facility upgrades will fall far behind fleet upgrades and the onboard product. Honestly, for me the last time I heard a big splash made about an airport lounge was American’s “Executive Center” at o’Hare!

    That, plus the crowding and traffic mixing (F, C, Y, commuter, alliance, etc)….sometimes for me it’s far easier and quieter to just find an empty gate within ear shot of the one boarding my flight.

  9. Cranky (in regard to your request for thoughts)- I think the decline of US lounges mirrors the decline of US carriers in general. LAX is my home airport and during the time that I had elite status with United (late 90’s through most of this decade) I spent a lot of time on their planes and in Red Carpet clubs, especially the one in T7 at LAX. What I experienced both on-board and in the lounge was a brief period of scaling up- better amenities, lots of staff to assist and comfort- followed by a steady decline in all areas. It reached the point that I did not even bother with the lounge because the quality of the seating, attention to service and overall experience were no better than what I would receive just waiting at the gate. Contrast that to walking into the Singapore lounge in Seoul where my jaw just dropped- “so this is what it is supposed to be like.” It will be interesting to see if the trend reverses itself but clearly that won’t be anytime soon.

    And congratulations on the “Brit love.” Well deserved.

  10. Have now used T5 a few times and can not complain at all. (I was also one of the dummy passengers who tested the terminal and it was clear to me that they would have problems on opening.) It feels like the new London Westfield(*) but with planes, but that’s no bad thing. As others have said, the Club lounges are much much better than those operated in the US by American carriers. The only odd thing in the main Club lounge is the way they have distributed the food and drink – e.g. the ice cream is hidden away (at the far right hand end if you have your back to the entrance). I still haven’t found champagne in there though…

    One interesting side effect is that the other terminals are starting to feel more human. I’ve been through (and met people at) T4 in the last three weeks and it just works a lot better now. And what they are doing to the check in area at T1 deserves its own blog post – they have taken out the “islands” of desks which meant the queues all mingled together and have used the space for self check in with bag drops down the side of the hall. They’ve also given it a much needed lick of paint. I know it’s not operating at capacity at the moment but it is a million times better. BMI must be chuffed.

    (*) in joke for the Brits…

  11. I do laugh thinking that I stick with DL, primarily because of free drinks in their airline lounge, NW and CO also have the same. I avoid US, AA, and UA because they are cheap. The lounges overseas are nice enough, but the one that knocked my socks off is the LH first class lounge in FRA. That has a private terminal, veritable restaurant, full bar, incredible service, private passport control, and the limo to the gate was the best I have seen. I will fly in a couple of months to SYD and see how Qantas’ lounge stacks up. Now I just need to plot a way onto SQ’s and EH’s A380 and see how those rate, and I don’t expect to have a US airline anywhere in the comparison. I am curious why a US airline has not tried a premium coach product. UA with economy plus only gives more legroom, but nothing else. A variety of foreign carriers, from BA, NZ, to Qantas have seen good yield improvements with this class, but no US carrier has tried it.

  12. I went through T5 in June, July and October and was pleased. At least as of October Ba’s flight from Denver was still operating out of T4 meaning a terminal transfer which is a pain, but that ought to go away once this flight is moved to T5 (may have since happened)

    As a Oneworld Emerald I can access BA’s first lounge at T5. Very nice, yes way ahead of anything in the US. Not as nice as the QF first lounge in SYD which has a very, very nice restaurant (although there isn’t the limo service that LH have in FRA).

    US airlines are locked into a death spiral of underinvestment. The lounges are just one symptom of this. As is the lack of any true long haul premium economy product, or more importantly ten year old business product.

  13. I am a dual US/British citizen who has lived in London for the past 7 years and now split living between Amsterdam and Dubai (let me know when you want to hear about EK’s new Terminal 3 — WOW!). As for T-5, I love it. I am a regular user on all fronts: origination, termination and transfer. The experience is fanstastic with good signage, efficient security checks, a bright atmosphere and efficient access to both of LHR’s runways. Accessing the main Galleries Lounges is a bit strange with an escalator ride down then back up, but once you get the hang of this it is really quite nice and a vast improvement from T-4.

    New-build terminals seem to exist on the concept of a shopping mall with airplanes attached and LHR T-5 is no exception; but the concept here works well and is laid out beautifully.

  14. I flew from New York to London a month ago and was really impressed by T5 – both arriving into and departing from the terminal proved to be seamless and hastle-free. T5 is what Heathrow has been waiting for.

    I have a young family and frequently travel between New York and Glasgow. I’ve flown Continental in the past as they offer a non-stop EWR-GLA service. This Christmans, I’ll be flying BA – the flights were cheaper and, after seeing T5 first hand, I’m not concerned about the transfer process.

  15. We transited through T5 last week (and two weeks earlier) and had an amazing experience. The terminal is gorgeous, easy-to-navigate, convenient, and the QUIETEST terminal ever. The BA lounge was also exquisite, with plenty of room, great food, and great drinks. I can’t wait to return!

  16. My husband & I have flown BA0195 from Heathrow to Houston 6+ times since T5 opened. All but one of the flights has been full fare business class (in case anyone thinks that is relevant).
    The terminal is very nice, a big improvement from T4.
    However, BA’s service is as they say here, beggars belief. Each time we’ve flown BA0195 we have been bused to the plane where we then enter via a stairs and not via a jetway. BA tells me the “stands” are all booked. Sure, a flight that departs at the same time every day or the week and originates at Heathrow can’t find a jetway. The 777 and now the 747 that BA uses for this route are usually full and many struggle up a stairway with children and their carry on baggage. I’ve not seen one BA employee help the elderly or offer to assist passengers with their carry on.
    Is this a cost cutting measure? Truly, boarding a plane via stairs in the mist/rain is not a good way to start a flight.

  17. I’m guessing this is some cost cutting measure BA are fobbing off on passengers. So much for BA and excellence. I’ve filled out their online survey on almost every flight; I guess any negative comments are put in the bin.
    I watched 2 very elderly Asian women struggle up the stairs while BA staff looked bored with the entire process, fortunately there were kind passengers that assisted the women.
    BA should be ashamed of their operations on BA0195.

  18. Karen – The good news is that this is a temporary thing. They’ve used remote gates like this for years, but the only reason they’re doing it now is because T5 isn’t fully built out. There’s another concourse being built that opens in the next couple years. Once that happens, you shouldn’t see this anymore. (I think!)

  19. CF, Thanks for the info. Hope I’m here for the change. You know I really don’t mind the lack of jetway as much as the attitude from BA. Usually if there’s no jetway I’m in an “exotic” location and not London ;-)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Cranky Flier