Does 2 hours for changing from one terminal to another at London’s busy Heathrow airport (IATA: LHR) sound like a lot of time? Nope. Would it make you nervous? Likely. Should it? Yes! Well – hang on a minute – let’s look bit closer at this as airports do improve their operations every now and then. Let me show you that ‘bad child Heathrow’ can actually work like clock work, even with a missed approach on your incoming flight. Here’s my experience report on how to change terminals at London Heathrow:
It’s Monday evening and I’m on my British Airways flight from Zurich (IATA: ZRH) to London Heathrow. I know that I have just under 2 hours to change from my arriving terminal 5 to the departure terminal 3 of my next flight. I am a little nervous about that, especially as the airport tells me it takes 90 minutes for the journey. And my experience tells me anything can go wrong at Heathrow at any time. And it did on our approach to runway 27 right. Shortly before touchdown the pilot had to declare a missed approach and take the plane up again and back into the landing sequence. Whilst this manoeuvre is something every pilot needs to be familiar with (apparently, it’s fairly common at Heathrow due to the short landing intervals), it definitely adds to the flight time as the plane has to get back to the queue of the landing aircrafts.
Luckily in my case the episode did only add 10 minutes to our flight time and we parked at 8pm local time at the gate. From there it was a short walk to the “Flight Connections” point (obviously this depends where your plane is parked at terminal 5 but it shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes from anypoint within the main terminal and 20 minutes from the satellite terminal). Since my next flight leaves from another terminal, I went downstairs to the place where the buses depart. There I just missed the bus and cursed. The staff assured me that buses run every 5 to 10 minutes though, so with that I had time for a pit stop at the close-by toilets which, by the way, aren’t as busy as the ones upstairs. Anyway, back to my bus. The next bus then indeed arrived 5 minutes later and the journey over to terminal 3 took exactly 8 minutes. You can spend that time either looking around at the airport’s operation or read the useful leaflets about the other terminals that are provided.
26 minutes after my plane parked at terminal 5 I’m already at terminal 3 with only security to go through. Only? At Heathrow that can actually be the bulk part of your time spent at the airport. But not here as this security is dedicated to those people connecting from other terminals and with that not as busy. 4 minutes later, I’m through that as well. The only last obstacles between me and my onward flight now are the tempting shops and cafes of terminal 3.
Whilst I surely had a good run, I’d actually be surprised if it took you more than 45 minutes from the time you disembark your plane to the inside of terminal 3. It goes to show Heathrow can actually be an efficient connecting airport! For details on connecting to and from other terminals, see the airport’s online guide.