Tag Archives: Fast Bag Drop

Has Heathrow Terminal 4 Improved?

Back at Christmas I posted a big grumble about the fiasco that is Heathrow Terminal 4 – a piece that even got me quoted in the Times. Heading over to France this last week, we went with British Airways, again from Terminal 4, this time into Geneva Airport in Switzerland.

So first up, there have been changes with the notorious ‘Fast Bag Drop’… Yes, rather than sort out the problems, they’ve just dropped the word ‘Fast’ from the title. Interestingly they’ve also done the same in Geneva, but as with Calgary we’d checked in and put the bags through in a few minutes there, unlike the twenty minute queue at Heathrow.

The other hassle we had last time was caused by the lack of available gates in the terminal, and it was the same this time around as we were bussed out to a remote stand. This didn’t cause us much of a delay going out, but coming back the inbound plane was over an hour late, entirely due to the same situation. According to the crew on the plane, they had been ready to go on time, but the flight coming out to Geneva had about twenty special needs passengers. Bear in mind that all of this would have been known to British Airways, but the plane was again on a remote stand. Whereas in Geneva the special needs passengers were taken off without too much of a delay over the air bridge, at Heathrow where on the remote stand the only access to the plane is up steps, it took them over an hour to load the passengers, resulting in such a delay that our plane took off only a minute or two before the next Geneva to London flight. It had one advantage though, when we touched down at Heathrow, they did put our flight onto a free gate at terminal 4, so at least we didn’t have to contend with the interminable wait for busses.

Thankfully all our baggage arrived – although considering that on the same day the Telegraph were running a story about the airlines selling off some of the hundreds of thousands that fail to be returned in the paper that was being given out, you couldn’t blame people for being worried that they wouldn’t!

Although we can do little to avoid Heathrow or Gatwick when heading to Canada Рcertainly it might be worth considering the Eurostar/TGV option next time we head to Taiz̩.

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…