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Friday, April 11, 2008

Terminal 5 a pleasant experience

I wrote disparagingly about Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport recently, following the baggage handling debacle. I thought it was a pity that this had overshadowed the new terminal and the fact it opened on schedule and on budget.
Well, having now passed through T5 on the way to San Francisco, I'm pleased to report it was a very pleasant experience.
I flew out on Sunday when there was quite a heavy (for London) snowfall, and this in itself presents difficulties. As the pilot put it, "the UK doesn't do snow very well." So we did get delayed on the runway for some time while they did the de-icing, but I have been delayed at Munich for the same reason in the past and they are good at snow.
I took hand luggage to avoid any baggage delays, but Anonymous did check in luggage and it was despatched on the carousel 10 minutes after we landed.
As far as the building itself is concerned, very light, airy and spacious. There is a policy of only making announcements for the final call, so it's surprisingly tranquil. It's quite similar to Munich's new(ish) Lufthansa terminal, and better in some respects (there are several shops at the gate!) but the money spent on the finish - for example Munich's marbled floors - is obviously nowhere near as much.
It's not a place to be if you don't like escalators. We had to go down several on arrival back from the US, and my brain is still trying to figure that out.
One very positive thing is the friendliness of the staff, both BA's and those in the airside shops. I bought some headphones in Dixon's and they offered to charge the battery while I waited for my flight. I observed that BA's staff, while under huge pressure (a lot of short haul flights had been cancelled because of the snow) were unfailingly courteous and friendly even though a lot of people were shouting and frowning. There is even someone on board the minibus from the long term car park to help with your bags.
And of course the best thing of all is that there are none of the lurid, psychedelic carpets that the rest of Heathrow inflicts on us!

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