Navigating Heathrow Airport – London

If you’re not a frequent visitor to London, navigating London Heathrow Airport can be daunting.  Having just been through Singapore Changi Airport, the process from going from one terminal to another is so simple.  Hop on the very easily accessible skytrain and in no time at all you’re at whichever terminal you need to get to.  Not so in London!

If you’re flying in on BA, then chances are you’ll probably arrive through the brand new Terminal 5.  However our SQ flight arrives at T3 and as we were transferring to a domestic flight, we had to make our way to T1.  To do this, we just followed the purple Flight Connections sign until we reached the transfer bus area.  Note: It was a very long walk and be warned that although there were trolley ramps installed along the way, they were all devoid of trolleys.  If you’re carrying a lot of shopping or heavy bags, this long walk after a longhaul flight can be stressful.  The dedicated bus are free and depart every 6 minutes.  They will take you to your departure terminal driving through some really unattractive workshop areas.  Not really what they should be exposing new tourists to.

What’s new at Heathrow -
As part of a new programme to enhance facilities for domestic passengers, domestic travellers are now using the same departure lounges as international passengers at T1. This means that all passengers will enjoy the same facilities and choice of shops and restaurants, including many of the duty free goods.

As a result of this move, the Government introduced extra security measures to ensure that an international connecting passenger is not able to exchange travel documents with a domestic passenger and bypass border controls.  As we were transferring from an international to a domestic flight, we were photographed before passing through Immigration.

How does the process work -
When you present your identification or boarding card at security you’ll be asked to face the camera to be photographed.  Your photograph is encrypted and you’ll be provided with a label with the encryption.  When it’s time to board, this photograph will be checked by security staff shortly before you get to your gate.  The data gets destroyed within 24 hours of use, in accordance with the Data Protection Act and is not used for any other purposes.

Once you’ve done your biometric capture, you get processed through hand luggage x-ray and security before departing on your flight.

After going through so many channels and checks, it gets confusing as to where or what processes you’ve completed.  It’s handy knowing what the right process is as once you’re past the hand luggage check, you are in the departure lounge and able to purchase duty free alcohol and cosmetics and the 100 ml. limitation does not apply from this point.   Below is a useful link to the BAA site that explains what your connection plans are, depending on which terminal you’re arriving/departing from.

http://www.heathrowairport.com/portal/controller/dispatcher.jsp?CiID=e925302b74193110VgnVCM10000036821c0a____&ChID=217fbf54776d4110VgnVCM10000036821c0a____&Ct=B2C_CT_GENERAL&CtID=448c6a4c7f1b0010VgnVCM200000357e120a____&Ch=Flight+Connections&ChPath=Heathrow%5EGbl%5EHeathrow%5EGeneral%5EAirport+information%5EFlight+Connections&ChIDPath=9a485109350d3110VgnVCM10000036821c0a____^d7b3b727436d4110VgnVCM10000036821c0a____^e734b727436d4110VgnVCM10000036821c0a____^7544b727436d4110VgnVCM10000036821c0a____^8454b727436d4110VgnVCM10000036821c0a____^217fbf54776d4110VgnVCM10000036821c0a

The restriction on liquids that you could take on board was so strictly enforced the last time we came through Heathrow.  This time around, things seemed to be a bit more relaxed, no doubt the pursuit of the shopping dollar resurrected in importance!

Helen

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