Wednesday, July 09, 2008


So on my way back to the Motherland, I had a proper chance to check out T5 in all its glory. Here are my thoughts:

First, I like the approach ramp when you arrive by car. It has a glorious sweep to it and elevates you to quite an eye-catching level. Better still, there were loads of trolleys right by the offloading bay - something which never happened at crappily-run Terminal 4. Thumbs up.

Enter the building and you are ravished by a sense of space and proportion. Also, unlike the other Heathrow terminals, there is a sense of calm. The huge space means that people are not cheek by jowl jostling around. Thumbs up.

The checking-in process has been technologised. You have to print out your own boarding pass, by swiping your passport or entering your ticket reference at a kiosk near the check-in desks. I had a brief moment of panic as I didn't have a printed out e-ticket so didn't know my number. In the end, swiping my passport did the trick. Thumbs in the middle for now -its a learning process.

Once I'd checked in my luggage - there was no queue as there are limitless desks stretching to the horizon - 3 times 32kg, big up for Nigeria's continued special treatment! - the route through security was astonishingly quick. I was through to the other side in 5 minutes.

In the departure 'lounge' (more like hangar) I was again sub-consciously confused. Everything is ten times the scale you are used to in an airport terminal. First, I had to claim VAT back on some electronics items. This involved a ten minute trek to one end of the terminal, followed by a trip downstairs to the Travelex bureau. All in all, the whole process took 20-30 minutes. Then, I wanted to leave my bags in the Business Lounge so I could explore unencumbered. There are two business lounge areas at either end. To get to the nearest lounge was another 10 minute walk, followed by two escalators and walking. Half-way into the lounge there is a super moving sculpture - a twenty foot kidney-shaped lozenge with dinosaur-size sequins that flicker and change side in pattern waves from time to time. A clever gesture to the former version of information boards at airports and railway stations that used to flutter into action as they renewed their information every few minutes. It is as you are on your way up to the business lounge that you realise you have in fact only been accorded middle class (not even upper-middle class) status. There is a First Class lounge that is verboten unless you have a First Class ticket or have an 'Emerald' One World card. Emerald? Then there is an Elemis Spa near the entrance to the First Class/Emerald lounge. It exudes a sort of Bond Street exclusivity which I'm sure puts off 90% of passengers lucky enough to have front-of-plane status from even bothering.

Finally, when you get to the Croydon-status business lounge it is worth the effort. There is space enough to disappear into a corner. They have two coffee bar areas. The toilets are lovely. One minor grumble: there is no secure left-luggage area (completely defeating the point of me schlepping up there).

Back down in the main area, it is a little bit like Selfridges with elbow room. Gordon Ramsey's joint again bristles with don't-even-fucking-try-it mate class. The elephant-size Duty Free has every conceivable type of perfume ever invented. It also has staff that are radiantly happy to see you at last. Either that or they have each been given bespoke bulge-proof unisex vibrators with the switch permanently set to 'on'. One minor grumble: they don't sell After Eights. No After Eights in Duty Free? What next?

All in all, T5 is lux, calme et volupte. The anxiety of too many people going too many places has been replaced by the altogether more sedate anxiety of being-at-one-with-the-cavernous.


Anonymous,  10:06 am  

Re the self check-in kiosks, whilst dropping my mum off in early June I noticed a couple of Nigerian men who were so enamoured with the new technology they took turns taking photos of themselves putting their passports in the machine to be read.

Also, you forgot to mention the nicely hidden re-packing areas prolly also designed with Nigerians in mind.

Anonymous,  12:47 pm  

I see you're still flying with BA...

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