web Musings of The Global Traveller

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Grrr London Heathrow

The 2 1/2 day trip around the world went fine, but I was again reminded why I dislike London Heathrow airport.

A tip for those whose connections on international flights requires a change of terminals and who can go through immigration (either have a visa for UK or don't need one) - sometimes it is much quicker to go through immigration and change terminals landside than transferring through Flight Connection Centre (FCC). In this case I have perfect evidence, for I met a fellow passenger on my flight arriving to London that was connecting to the same onward flight, but who had to go through immigration as she didn't have her bags checked through. With no checked luggage I had the option and chose FCC route. She arrived at the onward gate 40 minutes earlier than I did! This despite she not being familiar with the airport and needing to wait for bags to arrive at the claim (which can take a long time at London - my worst being 90 minutes).

Needless to say, I wasn't too happy spending so long queueing for security nor the poor management. More staff were yelling instructions at passengers queueing than were manning the x-rays and walk through metal detectors (WTMDs), with only 2 lanes open at a busy time of day.

The other reminder for me, was how even on a "good" day, delays can spring out of nowhere. In this case it was a passing light shower that lead to a one hour delay on my side trip flights. Fortunately I knew to pad the schedule well and had carefully chosen flights which minimised the risk of misconnecting. Further I had in mind a go-no go timing when I would abandon the side trip. What I had forgotten to take account of, however, was the possibility of boarding on time but then having a significant delay while onboard. Lesson learned, even back up plans may not be foolproof.

On a more positive note, I know the London Star Alliance lounges well enough, and my access rights, to ignore the advice given at check in to use only the United Airlines Red Carpet Club and instead headed to Singapore Airlines Silver Kris Lounge which was much nicer. I then eased my stress away over a nice drink (yes after a shower), knowing I was about to leave London Heathrow behind. Know your rights.

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