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Trip Report 3 Inter-Terminal Transfers at Heathrow

We recently transferred among terminals at Heathrow, and I thought to report the experiences briefly because of the frequent questions about the process and time involved.

November 16, 2012: T5 to T1, planeside. Time from door of the plane to departure lounge, 1:05. BA 193 arrived at T5B. There was a long walk from the gate to the escalators to the train lobby, followed by about a 7 minute wait for the next train. While the train was crowded, there was no problem boarding or taking our limited carry on luggage on board. There was then about a 10 minute wait for a plane side bus from Terminal 5A to T1. The bus was crowded and a little uncomfortable while it went to the furthest terminal from T5. Passengers who were trying to deal with maximum carry on luggage seemed very stressed at trying to control their baggage. At T5 there is a dedicated security area for transfer passengers. There was no line there and we went through as quickly as we could take our computers, and E-readers (!) out of our carry-on bags.

November 23, 2012: T1 to T5, landside. Time from the door to the elevator to the hotel, only 45 minutes. We arrived from Toulouse on BA 375, and had to get to T5 as we were spending a night at the Sofitel attached to T5. Got out of the plane at 6;05 p.m., and, despite the fast track line being closed at this time of day on a Friday, got through immigration in less than 5 minutes. Our checked bags arrived at baggage claim as we did and then took a fairly long walk to the Heathrow express which is free between the terminals. The train arrived in about 90 seconds after we did and we then walked to the hotel from the train exit. We were in our room at 7:00.

December 16, 2012. T1 to T5, planeside. From plane door to lounge, 1:45. (Note: we would have missed a legal two-hour transfer.) Despite being at the opening of the holiday season, I had hoped for less time in the transfer on a Sunday morning. Got off BA 193 at 7:45, at T5C. After the same long walk to the train escalators, a train arrived as we did and we were at T5A in less than 10 minutes from getting off the plane. The bus to T3 arrived in less than three minutes, and was not crowded. But, when we arrived at T3, we found that we were in the same security line as all departing passengers. It took nearly an hour to go through that process. The wait was punctuated by several sets of contradictory instructions, and was, of course, very difficult on the small children who were enduring the same waits as all other passengers. Despite it being early in the shift, the overwhelmed security agents were already showing signs of wear. I can only imagine what they must have gone through on a full day of dealing with these crowds. There was a set of "satisfaction" buttons at the exit, green, yellow, and red. The enamel on the red button was very nearly worn off.

Incidentally, we did a seamless transfer at Schipol two days later. The short time in the departure lounge was made fun by a west highland white who was intent on making certain that everyone in the lounge knew what a pleasure it was to be with him. I wonder if there is an opportunity for commercial "therapy" dogs to tour crowded terminals.

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