Tag Archives: Heathrow

Best International Airports for Layovers Critiqued

Our lovely friends over at Forbes have recently come up with their selection of the best international airport for layovers. It’s a great idea and something we have been discussing for a while here at LateDeparture. So, in true LD-style, let’s get that red pen out and add some notes to their recommendations:

London Heathrow Airport (IATA: LHR)

Yes, London is exciting, however, the airport overall isn’t. Don’t get us wrong, we really like what they’ve done with Terminal 5 and the Virgin Clubhouse in Terminal 3 is simply fantastic, however, the average traveller would probably be quite underwhelmed by the airport overall. It still feels too crowded, outdated and confusing. Plus there’s always the chance of getting in or out late because of the airport is already at 99% capacity with its 2 runways. But then it is London, well known for being eccentric and a bit chaotic. So if that’s what you like, you’ll have a great time there!

Hong Kong International (IATA: HKG)

Yes, Hong Kong should definitely be on that list; we wrote about it numerous times, for example in one of our most famous headlines reading “When little airports grow up, they become Hong Kong International“. The airport has also won numerous awards and certainly has our seal of approval!

Munich International Airport (IATA: MUC)

Munich airport has two faces: a happy one and a rather confused if not angry one. Let us explain this further: Munich is one of the Lufthansa hubs and therefore receives special treatment by the German airline. The carrier occupies one terminal exclusively (together with its Star Alliance partners). This terminal, Terminal 2, is really nice and offers plenty of options for shopping or consuming one of those famous Oktoberfest beers. On the other side, Terminal 1 is dull and boring and doesn’t seem to fit next to its upmarket cousin. However, there’s a solution if you are not flying through Terminal 2: head outside and get into that middle section between the two terminals. There you find a few restaurants and other interesting stuff to spend your time with (read our more detailed review titled “Oktoberfest atmosphere at Munich Airport” to gain further insights).

Singapore Changi Airport (IATA: SIN)

Yes, yes, and yes! This airport ticks all the boxes and definitely belongs in this list. And no, we don’t get any money for writing this. But it is an open secret that this airport has been our long lasting favourite and we’ve covered it extensively (e.g. read our detailled review of Changi’s crown jewel, Terminal 3 here).

Amsterdam Schiphol (IATA: AMS)

Amsterdam, Amsterdam, what can we say? Maybe that we love you? There’s certainly no doubt that this is an exciting airport with plenty to see and do. In our opinion it’s probably the best European airport as it’s got the perfect size, it’s big but not too big. Plus similar to Changi airport, Amsterdam keeps introducing new and exciting things.  The latest one was the banner vending machine – we wrote about it. If you want to read more about the airport, a good start is our review here.

That’s where the Forbes list ends. Overall we believe it’s a good selection but might miss out on mentioning South Korea’s Incheon International Airport (IATA: ICN), an airport that has also regularly won awards, Zurich Airport (IATA: ZRH) which we also featured a number of times (e.g. here) or good old Los Angeles International (IATA: LAX) albeit not for the airport itself, but for it’s great location only minutes away from the beach and other superb layover options (read our extensive LAX reviews here, here and here).

[Photo from Flickr – Some rights reserved by Gerrit Wenz]

This week: Ice Age in Europe, Super Bowl congestion and Bieber’s apology

Wow, what a big week for LateDeparture this one was! On Monday we announced the winner story from our Airport News of the Year award voting process. As you probably heard by now, the story about Jack the Cat who was lost at the JFK airport won the title. Subsequently many of you commented on the sad fate of Jack and reinforced on your views about who was to blame. If the award did one thing, then it showed that some airlines still have a long way to go in regards to handling incidents like this one.

Continue reading This week: Ice Age in Europe, Super Bowl congestion and Bieber’s apology

This week: three news pairs & a redesign

This week we’ve done something different by pairing up the airport news of the week. Before we get into it, we would like to make an announcement of our own: if you’re reading this on LateDeparture,  you might have noticed that we changed our site layout quite dramatically. The old layout has seen its days, so we redesigned the whole thing with the aim to make it a lot more user friendly and give you a better experience. Let us know what you think!

Continue reading This week: three news pairs & a redesign

This week: Heathrow angst, Schiphol innovation & the bikini girl

Unexpectedly no Thanksgiving horror stories hit us this week, but we did receive a long number of other stories coming all the way from Thailand and Amsterdam. Angst surrounding the United Kingdom’s largest airport also made it into our round-up this week. And finally we found a story that’s been waiting to be published from Los Angeles. Well, sort of.

Continue reading This week: Heathrow angst, Schiphol innovation & the bikini girl

This week: An all British Airport feast

For once this week’s round up of airport related news is focusing entirely on one country on the island of Great Britain. With Qantas’ ongoing strike woes continuing in Australia and Spain’s decision in delaying its airport privatization, to just name two examples, other regions certainly weren’t absent from news headlines around the world, yet it was England that caught our full attention this week.

Continue reading This week: An all British Airport feast

This week: driverless pods, online turbulence and Justin Bieber

This week a large online company got into some turbulence, we received additional input on our new airport review, Heathrow leapt into the future and a star was spotted at a Californian airport. Surely this is juicy enough for you to read on, right?

Continue reading This week: driverless pods, online turbulence and Justin Bieber

London Heathrow: How to change terminals in 30 minutes

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:

Continue reading London Heathrow: How to change terminals in 30 minutes

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]