Is Heathrow Still a Disaster?

Jan 27th, 2008, 10:38 AM
  #1  
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Is Heathrow Still a Disaster?

Two years ago, I connected through Heathrow on a trip to Germany. What a disaster! They made us go through security even though we had already cleared security in the US and never left the airport. The lines were atrocious and we almost missed our connection in spite of more than a two hour layover. I vowed to never go through there again but, alas, in order to take advantage of my frequent flier miles to go to Europe this fall, I must once again go through Heathrow. Is it improved any lately? Do they allow reasonable sized carry on baggage yet?
Christobel is offline  
Jan 27th, 2008, 11:00 AM
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LHR is about the same and there may be even more problems as T-5 comes on line and the bugs are worked out.

I do have an issue w/ your "They made us go through security even though we had already cleared security in the US" Why should any country depend on another country's security or lack there of?
janisj is offline  
Jan 27th, 2008, 11:02 AM
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It depends on when. The new Terminal 5 is opening fairly soon, and may go some way to improving things.

Two years ago you may have been caught up in the aftermath of the plot to smuggle liquid explosive onboard planes. Restrictions at Heathrow have improved since then, and I believe you may now take two pieces of carry on baggage.

willit is offline  
Jan 27th, 2008, 11:18 AM
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<<<They made us go through security even though we had already cleared security in the US and never left the airport.>>>

Not as bad as the country where you have to pass through immigration, collect your luggage, recheck it and THEN pass through security even if you don't intend leaving the airport
alanRow is offline  
Jan 27th, 2008, 12:30 PM
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<<<They made us go through security even though we had already cleared security in the US and never left the airport.>>>
This has been exactly my experience connecting through US airports when travelling from Latin America to Canada. For other reasons I fly non-stop now. The key to a more relaxed connection is having enough time to do it. Heathrow is big, busy and was not originally created to be what it is today so it is remarkable that it does as well as it does.
Gavin is offline  
Jan 27th, 2008, 10:46 PM
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<<<They made us go through security even though we had already cleared security in the US and never left the airport.>>>

I should bloody well hope so. Can any country be so irresponsible it would trust AMERICAN security to do a competent job?
flanneruk is offline  
Jan 27th, 2008, 11:18 PM
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To my knowledge, there are no airports in Europe, where you will not have to go through security when you connect from an international to another international or domestic flight.
So you could either opt for a non-stop (if possible) or choose other airport which usually gets better credits for handling transfers, e.g. Amsterdam/Schipol or Munich. You will find many threads here on connecting hassles in Heathrow, Paris CDG, or Frankfurt.

The only exemption in Europe can be for flights connecting within the Schengen zone, though some airports also have security checks for these connections.
Cowboy1968 is online now  
Jan 27th, 2008, 11:58 PM
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You want to talk about not trusting other people's security....

Why does the US government require a random check which includes a pat down and emptying your carry ons on all flights leaving Europe headed to the USA? No other country forces this humiliating experience...watch how flights to Canada are boarded without this silly garbage as compared to the USA flights?

Why does the US government require detailed information including credit card numbers of all passengers on a flight headed to the USA before it leaves? No other country feels it necessary to pull this garbage.

So to complain about the security check and running your bags through the scanner is absurd.

(BTW I am an American and find this absurd and distrustful of other country's ability to properly screen its passengers).

However, a valid criticism of Heathrow is their inability to control flow....about 3 years ago I had to connect on flight from JFK to Dublin via Heathrow....

So I had to follow the flight connection signs at Terminal 3 and wund up on a queue waiting for a bus and here they are clearly at fault...no queue should be allowed to form...buses should be available so that as one pulls out, another pulls in...that used up about 30 minutes...then, the security check at the entrance to terminal 2/terminal 1...okay fine..and then passport control but wait a second...I wasn't entering Britain I was heading for Ireland...that used up another 25 minutes and a long long long walk to terminal 1 huffing and puffing to catch my Aer Lingus flight...with a 2 hour connection I was late but the flight was late too...and then lo and behold upon arriving in Dublin, another passport control...why I had to go through passport control in the UK mystifies me....if I were going say to Germany, I wouldn't have had to...when I arrived at Terminal 2 that would be it.

I will say this, though...last Sunday I passed through terminal 3 on the way to JFK via Virgin Atlantic...they had the machines in use to check in...and enough machines so there was hardly any wait...a bit of a queue, perhaps 5 minutes so to check my bags and security was not bad at all (with the continued idiotic collection of liquids before security but then allowing you to buy whatever you want in the departure lounge)..no more than a 5 minute wait as they had 4 or 5 scanner going at one time...a totally smoke free departure lounge (Hurray) but then again the idiotic random check at the gate only because the flighht was headed for New York...I was passed through but still.....so I would have to say the experience wasn't bad at all.
xyz123 is offline  
Jan 28th, 2008, 12:28 AM
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"Not as bad as the country where you have to pass through immigration, collect your luggage, recheck it and THEN pass through security even if you don't intend leaving the airport"

I think this gets to the heart of the matter. To my mind, if you can fly EU-EU-US, then this is preferable to a EU-US-US itinerary. For example, Frankfurt to Amsterdam to Minneapolis will be better than Frankfurt to Dulles to Minneapolis. Having to collect and recheck your luggage means that any connection will likely take a minimum of 1-1/2 hours. As bad as Heathrow is, you can often beat this connection time, particularly if you don't have to change terminals. Outbound from the US, it doesn't matter whether you go US-US-EU or US-EU-EU.

If you live in a US city without direct flights to Europe, then this obviously won't work, and you should try to get a single connection at a US airport.

Personally, I don't mind Heathrow, again particularly if you don't change terminals. There are a lot of diversions (mostly shopping, though) and enough food options to pass the time. I would not say it is much worse than FRA or CDG, if at all.

Given a choice, Amsterdam is my preferred place to connect. Efficient, simple, with plenty of diversions. Zurich is nice, as well, though boredom will set in with a layover above 2 hours (unless it is long enough to allow a trip to the city).

BTW, if you find yourself again stuck in security that may mean a missed connection at Heathrow, mention it to the staff. While they can be harried and stressed, I routinely see them expedite short-connections by letting them cut the line.
travelgourmet is offline  
Jan 28th, 2008, 04:01 AM
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I do find the individual interviews for boarding a flight to the US somewhat off putting so if I was say comparing Atlanta (my god I had to queue almost to the front doors last time) with LHR I would be hard put to express a difference. I reckon by Mid April LHR will be back under control. Atlanta though will still be a mess
bilboburgler is offline  
Jan 28th, 2008, 04:51 AM
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"I do find the individual interviews for boarding a flight to the US somewhat off putting so if I was say comparing Atlanta"

But can you really avoid a lot of hassle for the EU to US leg? I know that they do these at AMS, as well. And a flight from CPH to the US involves quite the security hassle, too. ZRH was more lax, though. I guess I view the ex-EU to the US security hassles as fixed, so why add on additional hassle in the US, too?
travelgourmet is offline  
Jan 28th, 2008, 07:56 AM
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Will you be checking luggage? The other issue is the luggage problems at Heathrow, especially with British Air. Lots of lost bags, innumerable delayed bags. Haven't heard recently about this, maybe it's better now.
Mimar is offline  
Jan 28th, 2008, 08:38 AM
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<<< I guess I view the ex-EU to the US security hassles as fixed, so why add on additional hassle in the US, too? >>>

Unless you go through pre-immigration (only at Dublin this side of the pond) you will still go through the whole "get off the plane, go through immigrartion, etc etc" when you arrive in the US where, even if you are transitting only they can refuse you entry to the US and hence you don't get your onward flight
alanRow is offline  
Feb 7th, 2008, 09:50 PM
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My experience was similar to zyx123 with the winding around, going inside and outside, getting on and off busses, all just to transfer flights. As an added plus, they lost my checked bags although I must say the airline got it to me the next morning. My beef isn't with going through security - it's how slow it was. One should be able to make a connection with in two hours, I'd think.

Thanks for all your comments. I actually feel a little better about this connection.
Christobel is offline  
Feb 7th, 2008, 10:14 PM
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<<< Is Heathrow Still a Disaster? >>>

Given the runways run at 98% capacity and the airport takes something like 120% of it's design people capacity, it works surprisingly well
alanRow is offline  
Feb 8th, 2008, 01:43 AM
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I hate Heathrow and seem to have to use it more and more lately for work. I always get pulled for an "extr" check it seems and was unhappy about the body scan they did. I was pulled aside and had to stand in a booth types thing with my feet placed a certain way. They told me to take the money out of my pocket as the scan detected it and did it again! They also asked me if I was pregnant prior to me steppuing in the booth and a male colleague I was travelling with was nearby. What if I said yes? Would it harm me? I find it a bit disturbing. And if I was pregnant do I need the world to know? Also what if a female did not know she was pregnant and had the scan. It rattled me a bit.
SiobhanP is offline  
Feb 8th, 2008, 01:48 AM
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We flew out of Heathrow on the Friday before Christmas using miles.

Surprisingly, security check only took 45 mins.

We were at the gate and boarded the plane on time. Crew shut the plane's doors, did the safety talks etc.

Left the gate 1 1/2 hours later. We had to wait for baggage to be loaded. Missed our connections and wound up stuck in Chicago.

So, anything can happen, but after 3 years of living here, I ALWAYS try to travel out of Gatwick if possible. Although still busy, the security people just seem to be more on the ball. It's definitely easier to pass through security there on your way back!
maadimom is offline  
Feb 8th, 2008, 02:34 AM
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siobhanP...

I would suspect what happened to you was on a flight to the United States because the paranoid US government insists that all international flights include as part of the bureaucracy random checks of passengers which may or may not be so random...obviously trusting the Heathrow staff (or any other airport) to do their job properly is not on the agenda...you would be shocked at how many people are not outraged by this idiocy and buy into whatever nonsense they are being fed by the US government.

Anyway, it has nothing to do with Heathrow; every airline has its own criteria of just who gets the random check treatment at the gate..it was amazing two weeks ago, there was a Virgin Atlantic flight to JFK which I was on and the next gate over was Air Canada to Toronto; evidently the Canadian government doesn't share the US government's paranoia so the AC flight was boarded relatively quickly while the VS flight had these stupid random checks and going through hand luggage and pat downs and whatever.
xyz123 is offline  
Feb 8th, 2008, 02:37 AM
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Instead of blaming Heathrow perhaps its time to question the passengers...too much luggage? insufficient planning? little knowledge of rules and regulations? refusal to use alternate airports? inflexibility of travel dates? What else?
GSteed is offline  
Feb 8th, 2008, 04:44 AM
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GSteed...

To a degree you're right but it doesn't explain the difficulties Heathrow imposes in inter terminal connections with a bus system unable to provide immediate buses and forcing travellers to queue for as much as 45 minutes (and I've seen that happen)...

Even an airport as miserable as JFK (although in many respects it's superior to LHR) now has a free train service between terminals that in minutes can take yuo from one terminal to another and trains run every couple of minutes.

Same thing is true at Atlanta.

Why there are no easy connections between the terminals (not a long walk from the terminal to the HEX for example or when Terminal 5 open the Heathrow Connect) is frankly a disgrace.
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