Sunday, 29 April 2012

Heathrow: World Class Airport And World Class Delays




Although I love London, I am still struggling with London's major airport, Heathrow.
I was picking up a friend from there today, and despite the amount of money (c.£4.2 Bn) spent on Terminal 5, and the fact that no less than two rivers had to be diverted to build it, something doesn't quite work.

For starters, it takes more than an hour to get there on the Piccadilly line from Central London and of course there is no mobile reception in the tunnels, which I find a bit annoying. This basically leaves you with two expensive options if you are short of time: Heathrow Express or cabs.


Once you have finally made it to the terminal, you need to find the right gate. The building is so huge that it is easier said than done. There is no-one to help you, and the signs are very misleading: call me stupid, but I ended up in the departure hall when I was looking for the international arrivals. This is because the arrow was going up and on the left. So I took the escalator on my left hand side. Fatal mistake. After 4 more escalators and not a single sign in sight -and no possibility to go back down again- I ended up in the departure hall. The escalators to go down were at the other end of the building. I didn't really enjoy the visit!

At this point, I started to worry that I might miss my friend. There was no need to. His plane had landed, but they couldn't find any available disembarking gate. They turned around the airport half an hour and then were finally allocated a gate, but it was a 15-min bus ride away and the buses were late too. Of course.

That said, we were lucky: there was no queue that day at the passport control and my friend had no luggage. In short, it could have been worse. Much worse. Apparently, it sometimes takes more than 3 hours to get through passport control.

And, if you must know, Heathrow usually closes when it snows. Even just a little bit. Actually, even if it threatens to snow. I wonder how they keep the airports open all winter in Canada or Finland. They must know something we don't.

As I had to wait for the best part of an hour, I started to look around. On the live information panels, I read that the average time between the landing and the arrival at the gate was 20 minutes without luggage. What a load of rubbish! I am wondering whether they use drones to improve the statistics. Or maybe test missiles. You have got to love this country when people have this amazing capacity to make a massive mess look like a model of organisation. Maybe if you keep repeating such false statements, people start believing it in the end? How can you have a 3-hour queue at passport control and a 20-min time between the landing and the arrival at the terminal? Whoever wrote this needs to re-sit his statistics exams.

When I talk about Heathrow, people are quick to snap back and tell me that Roissy Charles De Gaulle airport (Paris main airport) is probably worse.
To be honest, I think that it is similar. What is true is that the new Heathrow T5 terminal is nice and spacious and an architectural success. And the roof hasn't collapsed as it did in Roissy a few years ago (See here if you don't believe me). Maybe, after all, they have a point.

Well, on a more positive note, here is an oldie but goodie...Enjoy without moderation:
Have a great week!

Muriel -@FrenchYumMummy

7 comments:

  1. Sometimes a trip through Heathrow can go like a dream - swift zip through passport control, baggage where it should be when it should be, easy take-off and a swift flight. Other times, agreed, it can be hell - endless waiting in lines, long waits for baggage. I think it depends on when one chooses to fly, and how many other people have made the same decision. Heathrow seems to manage far better with early/late flights, but its the sheer number of people on day flights that they seem to struggle with...

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    1. It looks like I was there on the wrong day then...Everything that could go wrong basically went wrong...I don't understand why heathrow can't be managed properly. It is just beyond me...

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  2. Now who has a swanky looking blog hey! Ooooo

    As to the blog post, I think if you speak to anyone from any country they will all vouch that Heathrow is pretty bad. It's just so big and menacing and...confusing!

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    1. Glad you like the new design...This is coming from blogger, and apparently Wordpress offers more options...once again I got it wrong.
      As for Heathrow, it is simply a nightmare!

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  3. Sounds like an extremely frustrating experience, and one which I wouldn't wish to negotiate alone! On the bright side, your blog is looking amazing; congratulations on the wonderful new changes!

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    1. Thank you Elizabeth, I am glad that you like the new design. As for airports, you seem to have a much better deal in Canada... How do you guys do it?

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  4. Wow. I am grateful for my smalltown airports! :)

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