Tag Archives: Britain

This week: Korean Air’s late departure, Atlanta’s second airport & more

We’re back after our extensive trip through the U.S. – watch this space for some upcoming posts! But back now to our weekly airport news round-up: This week started relatively quiet and then certainly picked up the pace with interesting airport news towards the end. So, here’s what we have for you for this week:

Continue reading This week: Korean Air’s late departure, Atlanta’s second airport & more

London Stansted: Come fly with me

It’s no secret, LateDeparture has always had a love-hate-relationship with the UK’s third busiest airport. Whilst the airport itself is quite alright, it can feel crowded plus the pure nature of mainly operating low cost carrier can add to the airports stress level (as reviewed a while back). Now, however, the airport presents itself in an entirely different light. And it’s not because of the UK Competition Commission’s turnaround of allowing BAA keep owning the airport, it’s a different story: the actors from the controversial but highly acclaimed comedy show, Little Britain, Matt Lucas and David Walliams launched a spoof of British documentaries Airport and Airline. The series officially started in Britain on Christmas day last year and follows the activity at a fictional airport and three airlines: FlyLo (a low-cost airline), Our Lady Air (an Irish low-cost airline) and Great British Air (a major international British airline).

Continue reading London Stansted: Come fly with me

Five things Alain de Botton learned at Heathrow’s T5

The Guardian yesterday published five things Alain de Botton learned from spending a week in Heathrow‘s terminal 5. BAA hired the Swiss philosopher a month ago and granted him unlimited access to all areas in the terminal. Here is what he found:

1 A surprising number of people die at Heathrow every week: around two a terminal. The 20 minutes after you’ve got off the plane are especially hazardous to your constitution. Then again, given the tenderness that parting couples show one another at the barrier, the prospect of death en route can do wonders for any fractious relationship.

2 There’s a British Airways check-in employee at Terminal 5 who, if you manage to be especially rude to her, will pretend that her machine has suddenly designated you for an upgrade. Then, just as she observes your scowl turn into a deferential smile, she will take a second look at her screen, sigh empathetically and announce that sadly the system has mysterious changed its mind and there won’t be an upgrade after all. “That’s a lesson that normally lasts a lifetime,” she reckons.

3 It’s a good deal more interesting to study how an airline meal is made than to eat one. Every weekday at around 4am, a mile from Terminal 5, in an aluminium shed owned by Gate Gourmet, a woman called Leyla sets to work grilling the hundred lamb cutlets that will, a few hours later, face Emirates business-class passengers on EK008 to Dubai.

4 What spoils our experience of airports is that we tend to go there only to catch a flight. We’d be wiser to start going with a view to doing nothing other than have a look around, as people used to do in the 1960s – and which we will probably have to relearn to do, as we wake up to the extraordinary environmental impact of even the most advanced aeroplane engines.

5 To judge by the continuing success of airport-based company Caviar House, homo sapiens manifests a special proclivity for the creatures of the sea as it prepares to take to the skies. Our sea-based appetites perhaps result from a semiconscious desire to savour man’s triumph over both the oceans and the skies, the overworld and the underworld, this duality perfectly reconciled in a man who can in the same afternoon eat a dozen oysters and board a 747 to another continent.

Alain de Botton’s new book, “A Week at the Airport” is available here (Profile Books, £8.99). In addition, Passengers can get one of 10,000 exclusive copies distributed for free at Costa Coffee stores in all 5 London Heathrow terminals.

[Picture from the Guardian]

Terminal with a view: Heathrow Terminal 5 – B Gates

On my business trips to California I usually prefer to fly Virgin Atlantic, but this time, unfortunately, the economics were against my preference. Well, to be honest, British Airways isn’t actually that bad even though their Premium Economy product lacks all the benefits of its arch rival but I guess value for my employer value for money was pretty okay this time. But there is one very clear benefit of flying with BA out of Heathrow (IATA: LHR): you can leave from Terminal 5. And that, you have to admit, is despite all the BAA bashing, is a fantastic terminal.

LateDeparture.com has previously written about Terminal 5 but we then focused on the main building, housing the “A gates”. Terminal 5’s full structure, however, consists today of the main building and a satellite terminal with the B gates (Terminal 5B). A third complex, the C gates (or Terminal 5C), is currently in construction and due to open in May 2010. British Airways mainly operates their long haul flights from the B gates, hence I now got the chance to have a closer look at it.

Reaching the satellite terminal is simple and quick: you hop on a short underground shuttle from the main building. Make sure you set aside 10 to 15 minutes for the journey with the actual shuttle ride only taking about 1 minute. There, by the way, I suggest you ride in the front as it travels pretty fast and looking out to the track is a somewhat exciting (I know boys will be boys…).

Once at the terminal, you will find a few shops (see PDF map for details) including a nicely stocked Boots (I liked their selection of miniature travel essentials), a WHSmith, a Duty-Free Shop, a “Caviar House Seafood” bar with a great view towards the main building and a sandwich & coffee place. None of them are actually interesting enough for you to leave the shopping and gourmet heaven of the main building in a hurry, but there is one very distinct advantage of the satellite: it is quiet. Because fewer flights depart from this terminal, less people are present which again means you can easily find somewhere to sit and relax. This, together with the 360 degree view of everything that is going on at Britain’s busiest airport makes it an attractive option for people like me who are fascinated observing the airport’s operations, landing and departing aircrafts (try to spot Singapore Airline’s A380). With the satellite’s close proximity to the main terminal, it could even be an attractive alternative for sitting out longer delays occurring in the main terminal.

[Photo by LateDeparture.com – all rights reserved]

Make good at London Stansted

On Friday I returned to the airport where I had the initial idea for this blog: London Stansted Airport (IATA: STN). Last time I wasn’t very lucky when my Friday evening flight to Copenhagen was delayed by over an hour and on the way back I went through an even bigger pain (see my very first post).

This time my fate changed for the better. On the way out to Düsseldorf Weeze (IATA: NRN) we were only slightly delayed because of some minor baggage and cargo loading problems. Luckily Ryanair was able to make up the delay and we arrived with the usual punctuality fanfare at the Lower Rhine (Niederrhein) airport.

So I guess, I have to admit that Stansted usually is quite a nice airport. It’s certainly not that close from London (it takes 45 minutes from Liverpool Street station) and it costs a staggering £26 return, but once you are there it’s quite pleasant. The terminal is big and roomy, there are lots of good shops (e.g. Reiss) and plenty of eateries and coffee shops. No wonder is Ryanair eying to purchase this airport once it will be split off from the current owner BAA.

But let’s get to the fun part. This time I decided to play a little game: I wanted to find the best and worst looking, women’s perfume flacon at the large duty free store. Here’s my decision:

The Winner: Valentino – Rock ‘n Rose
Valentino Rock 'n Rose

The Loser: Anna Sui – Dolly Girl
Anna Sui - Dolly Girl
Airport Facts and Ratings

Airport Name London Stansted
Website http://www.stanstedairport.com/
Design LateDeparture.com Plane Award PointLateDeparture.com Plane Award PointLateDeparture.com Plane Award Point
Shopping LateDeparture.com Plane Award PointLateDeparture.com Plane Award PointLateDeparture.com Plane Award PointLateDeparture.com Plane Award Point
Toilets LateDeparture.com Plane Award PointLateDeparture.com Plane Award PointLateDeparture.com Plane Award PointLateDeparture.com Plane Award Point
Overall LateDeparture.com Plane Award PointLateDeparture.com Plane Award PointLateDeparture.com Plane Award PointLateDeparture.com Plane Award Point
Chanel No 5 Eau de Parfum, 100ml at the Duty Free Shop £57.70
Bottle of Veuve Cliquot at the Duty Free Shop £28.25 (incl. ice jacket)


[Pictures from Flickr: Stansted (some rights reserved), Valentino, Anna Sui]

London City Airport: Small but efficient

Last week I had the pleasure of taking a flight from London’s smallest commercial airport, London City airport (IATA: LCY). The airport is conveniently located in London’s docklands, east of the financial district and can be accessed easily by Docklands Light Railway (DLR). It is even in London Transport’s zone 3, so it won’t cost you much to get there either.

So what is the catch? There of course is one – as always. The airport is small, has only one runway which is not very long (1319 m) and therefore is restricts to STOL (Short Takeoff and Landing) airliners. Its operating license says, aircrafts have to be capable of a 5.5 degree or steeper approach. Plus there is a strict noise regulation in place. Therefore only small planes are predominant, particularly the BAe 146 aircraft which means the number of destinations offered are limited.

So, how does the airport terminal rate? Even though the airport is small, a lot of people are passing through on a daily basis. In 2006 2.3 Million people travelled through the City airport according to Wikipedia. Particularly on week days, the airport is at its full capacity affecting the limited space in the terminal. But its not all bad, they have recently increased seating space and anyway, with low delay rates, you can expect to be in and out of the terminal faster than you can say “delay”. In the rare occasion where you do get delayed, here are my Top-X-Things to do:

  1. Check out the 2 big bars and mingle with the business men who enjoy their evening beer
  2. Sit at the north side of the terminal and count the number of BAe 146 aircrafts taking off
  3. Guess the nationalities of the business men and women rushing to the gates
  4. Find the biggest TV screen to watch the Olympics coverage
  5. Count the number of destinations you can fly to from the departure screens

Airport Facts and Ratings

Airport Name London City Airport
Website http://www.londoncityairport.com/
Design LateDeparture.com Plane Award PointLateDeparture.com Plane Award Point
Shopping LateDeparture.com Plane Award PointLateDeparture.com Plane Award Point
Toilets LateDeparture.com Plane Award PointLateDeparture.com Plane Award Point
Overall LateDeparture.com Plane Award PointLateDeparture.com Plane Award PointLateDeparture.com Plane Award PointLateDeparture.com Plane Award Point (Because of its convenient location)

Chanel No 5 Eau de Parfum, 100ml at the Duty Free Shop

Bottle of Veuve Cliquot at the Duty Free Shop £49.99 (cellar box vintage 2002)

[Picture from Flickrsome rights reserved]

Ryanair to take-over London Stansted airport?

Ryanair seems to be interested in taking over London Stansted airport (IATA: STN) according to a news article published in the Daily Telegraph today:

Michael O’Leary is interested in launching a £2bn bid for Stansted airport and proving to BAA and the regulators that he can run it much better than they can.

The current owner, BAA, has recently become under increasing pressure to break up its monopolistic ownership over the three busiest airports in London, Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted after continuously failing to improve their performance. However, having Ryanair running an airport would raise other concerns: Would they make travellers pay for every little additional thing as they do with their flights? At least this discussion adds to some movement in the BAA question and that’s always welcomed.

[Picture from Flickr]

British Airways to give away airmiles for delays

British Airways today introduced a new program where they “generously” give away 5,000 airmiles when your flight from Heathrow Terminal 5 is more than 15 minutes delayed:

As part of our commitment to giving you outstanding service, we do everything we can to get you to your destination on time. So if in spite of all our efforts we can’t depart from Terminal 5 within 15 minutes* of scheduled departure time over the coming weeks, we’d like to give you more than just an apology:

When you fly Club Europe, Euro Traveller or Domestic Flights on a flexible ticket (booking classes JCDYBH) departing from Terminal 5 between now and 02 September 2008 you’ll receive
5,000 BA Miles if your flight leaves later than 15 minutes* of its scheduled departure time from Terminal 5.

BA actually has been doing this for quite some time, but you only received the miles when you actively complained about a particular flight. This offer now sounds fairly generous since manymost Heathrow flights these days suffer a delay. In fairness this delay is often not the result of a problem caused by the airlines, but more because of the airport’s severe capacity constraints. And, surprise, surprise, the small print of BA’s offer then exactly excludes those kind of delays:

British Airways reserves the right to exclude at its discretion any flights where disruption occurs beyond the reasonable control of British Airways. Non–exhaustive examples include severe weather conditions and their ongoing or consequent effects, air traffic control delays and industrial action.

With that, this offer all of a sudden sounds more like a common PR exercise than an innovative and generous customer centric solution.

[Picture from Flickrsome rights reserved]

Crowded house at London Heathrow Terminal 3

Even in full anticipation of a delayed flight, I left my home well in time for check-in at London Heathrow‘s Terminal 3 – home to Virgin Atlantic. It’s funny how this blog can change your whole expectation (but then this was part of the idea anyway). So, was my flight delayed? Technically yes, but I have to admit, it was a close call. The Boeing 747 left the gates about 20 minutes after the scheduled departure time and took off 11 minutes later. In fact, that’s a very acceptable delay, especially for a 10 hour flight.

So, what was there to do in Terminal 3? Quite a bit: Until the recent opening of Terminal 5, this terminal was probably the best Heathrow had to offer, especially in terms of shopping and amenities. It’s still pretty good, however, the one thing that is striking every single time I get there, is the sheer amount of people in one space. The main area is ridiculously undersized for the amount of people and as a result you will have a tough time finding a seat even during quiet times like this morning.

However, there’s good news as well. Having been in this Terminal a couple times before I already know you can find the usual newspaper, electronics and book shops, a large duty free shop, a Harrod’s outlet, the only Yo! Sushi restaurant in Heathrow, TGI Friday’s, Brasserie Chez Gérard, a handful of Designer shops and four coffee shops. Four coffee shops? Yep. And with that insight, I told myself there must be quite some competition among them, so I took a closer look and compared the prices for a regular sized latte (or in new coffee lingo it would be a “tall” sized drink):

  • Bagel Street, £1.80
  • Eat, £1.90
  • Starbucks, £2.05
  • Caffe Italia, £2.10

If you are looking for a soy milk latte, this changes the game slightly as both Eat and Starbucks charge extra for this luxury health choice (Eat £0.30, Starbucks £0.35) where as the two others don’t.

But if price was equal, which one should you choose? Which coffee is the best? Well, personally I favour Eat for regular coffee and Starbucks for Soya as they have the better soy milk. But in line with my previous post about eating healthy while travelling, I only tasted these two this time. I will update this post when I’m back to taste the other two.

Oh, one more thing: From now on we will add a little price index to our airport short facts where possible. I’ve chosen the two most useful likely products you would find in every duty free around the globe: Chanel No 5 Eau de Parfum and Veuve Clicquot Champagne. Prices will be shown in local currency and US Dollars.


Airport name: London Heathrow, Terminal 3
Website: http://www.heathrowairport.com/
Design factor: 2/5
Shopping factor: 3/5
Toilets factor: 3/5
Overall factor: 2/5
Chanel No 5 Eau de Parfum: £57.70 (click to see other currencies)
Bottle of Veuve Clicquot: £28.25

[Picture from Flickr]

Girl’s heaven at London’s Terminal 5

Late Departure at London Heathrow Terminal 5

15 minutes delay for my flight to Berlin? GREAT! Because – LADIES – that’s all you need! Head downstairs to the A departure level and check out my Top 3 which are just next to each other:

  • Go to the comfy ladies bathroom and realize by checking your make-up that you look just gorgeous! This wonderful body needs to be treated well with…
  • … chocolate! Stop at the chocolate waterfall of “Chocolate Box” next door and spend your money on your favourite bar.
  • … gems! Your desire for eye candies can be satisfied at “Accessorize”. One can never have too much jewellery!

After all that, head happily to your gate with the nice thought of enjoying your chocolate while looking at London from the sky).


Airport name: London Heathrow (Terminal 5) Short code: LHR
Website: http://www.heathrowairport.com
Design factor: 4/5
Shopping factor: 3/5
Toilets factor: 4/5
Overall factor: 4/5

P.S. I am curious what the guys have to say about Terminal 5! I saw them handing out free shots of Whisky at the Worldofdutyfree, that should make it on to the list. As well as the comfy sofas in the waiting area. But  don’t forget to check out Gucci and Tiffany’s and buy some small souvenir for your lefthome girlfriend! 😉