Heathrow Fun and Games

So this morning we took Beth’s parents up to Heathrow to catch their plane back to Canada. We’d experienced the crazy design of the new Terminal 3 Short Stay car park picking up Beth’s parents last week, but even at the fairly early hour of the morning we were there today, with most of the traffic apparently heading for the other terminals, we still hit problems.

If you haven’t experienced it as yet, it really is crazy. The old short stay car park has been closed, and they have build a new multi-storey car park directly behind the old car park, with a new bridge across to terminal 3. However unlike the previous car park, the new car park has the entrance and exit ramps at the back, on the opposite side of the car park from the terminal access. Coupled with the layout of the parking spaces the new car park forces all the pick-up and drop-off traffic to have to go all the way across the car park and back to do get to the pick-up point, more than that, for the majority of parking spaces, all the traffic also has to go past the pick-up and drop-off point both on the way in and the way out. As a result, most of the time there is a queue of stopped cars around the parking level, tailing back from the pick-up and drop-off point. In the old car park the pick-up and drop-off point was not only much larger, but also didn’t block the flow of traffic around the car park because it was positioned near to the entry and exit ramps. Fundamentally I think that whoever designed the car park really hasn’t thought about the way people use the car park. As to how to solve it, since moving the ramps really isn’t an option, the best choice seems to be to reverse the direction of the middle aisle of the level, which then gives much more access to people who want to park, but don’t want to go over to the pick up point.

Anyway, after the joy of the car park, this morning we also had fun and games with the Air Canada check in. Like many airlines they are actively encouraging passengers to make use of the web and self-service check-ins, which Beth’s parents did. In theory, what should happen is that they turn up at the airport, drop off their checked baggage, and head off for departures. According to the Air Canada web site, baggage can be dropped off up to four hours before departure – however it seems not at Heathrow for an early morning flight. We thought we’d get up promptly and have breakfast at the airport, however when we arrived, although the normal check-in desks were open (and with a massive queue), and the self-service check-in desks were active, there was nobody on any of the baggage drop off desks. A chat to the check-in representative on the first class desk revealed that the baggage drop-off desks didn’t actually open until 6am (bear in mind that it was ten-past six already at this point), and by the time someone actually appeared and opened the desks it was nearly 6:30am, and the queue of people waiting to drop off their baggage was getting decidedly long. The other amusing twist is that even though Beth’s parents had used the online check-in, and printed out boarding passes, the person on the desk printed out new boarding cards for them – and did this for everybody else – because apparently they have had trouble with reading the bar code that is printed on the web check-in boarding cards. It really makes me wonder what the advantage of the web check-in is if they still have to print boarding cards, and you still have to queue drop off the baggage…

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