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Weird Operations At LHR  
User currently offlineAlnessW From United States of America, joined Jun 2010, 618 posts, RR: 1
Posted (3 years 10 months 1 week 4 days 20 hours ago) and read 4049 times:

This summer, for the first time ever, I got to experience London-Heathrow. My sister, grandparents and I flew British Airways BOS-LHR-ATH in late June.

BA 212 from BOS to LHR (redeye, on a 747) went just fine, and we arrived at LHR about 20 min early. Our flight disembarked at some international gate. LHR seems to have lots of there. They are laid out in rows on a separate floor than the departure gates. Why?

So we deplane, thank the crew, and walk up the long Jetway into terminal. It is completely empty and lifeless. The only people there are the folks that are getting off of our same flight. There are signs pointing us in the direction of flight connections/international arrivals, but that's it. No airport employees in sight.

First off, where the hell are we? Second off, where the hell are we going? We walk down a long hallway and eventually start going up lots and lots of long escalators, still in lifeless areas. By the time we make it to the transfer area, a fair amount of time has passed by. There is a sign there that points you to the transfer area if your flight is listed on the nearby departure board. If your connecting flight was NOT listed, then another sign directs you down to an escalator. Our connecting flight to ATH, BA 640, was not listed. So we go down some more escalators and hallways, down to a train stop. The train arrives, and we ride a very short distance (no more than 30 seconds) to another station. We disembark and continue walking. Still no idea where we are. We continue our escalator/hallway pattern until we finally make it to our international connections area.

We then individually walk up to an airport agent at a desk who scans our connecting boarding pass, looks at her computer screen for a few seconds, return our passes and waves us through. So she had obviously just checked us against some computer record. Hmm...

We go up one more level to a security checkpoint. We get screened without a problem, and finally make it into the gate area.

What a process! So, what exactly happened? Where did our flight arrive? Why was it such a long journey to our flight connections area? Etc, etc...

After our vacation, we flew back to the U.S on July 11. We departed ATH on BA 641 (to LHR) out of gate A22. They used shuttle buses (ugh) to get us out to our A320.

Upon arrival at LHR, we followed just one hallway to the transfer area, the same place we went through on out outbound trip, with the same process.

Our flight to BOS, BA 239, was eventually assigned gate A10a. Now, why doesn't LHR assign your flight a gate until 20-30 minutes until it boards? Signs directed us to escalators/elevators that took us down about 2 levels, to the ground floor of the terminal. A10a is yet another shuttle bus gate, with no Jetway. Come on, LHR. You can't get us a Jetway for a Boeing 777? Really?

These guys were really paranoid about security. Lots of security folks at the gate. I was told that photography was not allowed, and LOTS of people were getting searched at the gate, including both of my grandparents. Luckily, I wasn't selected. I assume the reason for all of this drama is because this is a flight to the U.S.

Boarding eventually began and they needed 5 buses to get us all out the monstrous 777. Fortunately, I was able to get in line early. This turned out to be very wise, because I saw from the bus that the line for boarding stretched clear over to the neighboring gate. Another good reason not to use shuttle buses to board a 777!

So, what is the reason for all of this? I look forward to reading your responses.

-Wilson

14 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineQuokka From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 1, posted (3 years 10 months 1 week 4 days 18 hours ago) and read 4036 times:

Quoting AlnessW (Thread starter):
They are laid out in rows on a separate floor than the departure gates. Why?

To improve passenger flow: Heathrow handles more international passengers than any other airport. Arriving passengers want to get to baggage reclaim or a transfer gate. Departing passengers want to get from check-in and security to the plane. It makes sense for arriving passengers to be kept separate from departing passengers.

Quoting AlnessW (Thread starter):
Why was it such a long journey to our flight connections area?

Finding parking for sufficient aircraft to handle 67 million+ passengers year (approx 184,000 a day) requires a fair amount of space - hence long walks between flights.

Quoting AlnessW (Thread starter):
Another good reason not to use shuttle buses to board a 777!

Beats walking across the apron and without sufficient gates to jetways to accommodate every aircraft, it is the safest option.


User currently offlineRussianJet From Belgium, joined Jul 2007, 7694 posts, RR: 21
Reply 2, posted (3 years 10 months 1 week 4 days 17 hours ago) and read 4028 times:
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Quoting AlnessW (Thread starter):
First off, where the hell are we? Second off, where the hell are we going?

I find the question a bit odd. You've just arrived at a major airport on an international flight - and that's where you are.

Quoting AlnessW (Thread starter):
There are signs pointing us in the direction of flight connections/international arrivals

What else do you require? Surely that is all one needs to find the way.

Quoting AlnessW (Thread starter):
Why was it such a long journey to our flight connections area?

It's a big airport. There is no mystery there.

Quoting AlnessW (Thread starter):
You can't get us a Jetway for a Boeing 777? Really?

There are not infinite numbers of the things in one of the most congested airports in the world. Inevitably some flights will board using buses.

Quoting AlnessW (Thread starter):
So, what is the reason for all of this? I look forward to reading your responses

I am at a loss to understand the problem. You got where you needed to, found your way, got screened ok, and made your flight which didn't have an air bridge, but then lots of flights don't use them. Nothing strange here.



✈ Every strike of the hammer is a blow against the enemy. ✈
User currently offlineAlnessW From United States of America, joined Jun 2010, 618 posts, RR: 1
Reply 3, posted (3 years 10 months 1 week 4 days 7 hours ago) and read 3980 times:

Quoting RussianJet (Reply 2):
I find the question a bit odd. You've just arrived at a major airport on an international flight - and that's where you are.

What I was wondering was as to where we are specifically. E.g, what terminal, which gates, etc.

Quoting RussianJet (Reply 2):
What else do you require? Surely that is all one needs to find the way.
Quoting RussianJet (Reply 2):
It's a big airport. There is no mystery there.

Once again, just wondering as to where we arrived and what part of the airport we were in.

Quoting RussianJet (Reply 2):
Inevitably some flights will board using buses.

Right, but I thought that those were more geared towards CRJs and other small aircraft.

Quoting Quokka (Reply 1):
To improve passenger flow: Heathrow handles more international passengers than any other airport. Arriving passengers want to get to baggage reclaim or a transfer gate. Departing passengers want to get from check-in and security to the plane. It makes sense for arriving passengers to be kept separate from departing passengers.
Quoting Quokka (Reply 1):
Finding parking for sufficient aircraft to handle 67 million+ passengers year (approx 184,000 a day) requires a fair amount of space - hence long walks between flights.

That would make sense. Thanks for the clarification.


User currently onlineB747forever From Sweden, joined May 2007, 17057 posts, RR: 10
Reply 4, posted (3 years 10 months 1 week 4 days 5 hours ago) and read 3962 times:

Quoting AlnessW (Reply 3):



After reading your story it seems that you arrived at T5b and your flight to ATH departed from T5a.

Quoting AlnessW (Reply 3):
Right, but I thought that those were more geared towards CRJs and other small aircraft



Well the problem is that the smallest a/c in LHR is A320 and Boeing 737 family aircraft. BTW I actually do enjoy boarding by stairs because one gets so close to the aircraft. When I flew LAX-LHR we disembarked through stairs and got bussed to the terminal, but it was worth it because I got so close to the 747!.



Work Hard, Fly Right
User currently offlineRussianJet From Belgium, joined Jul 2007, 7694 posts, RR: 21
Reply 5, posted (3 years 10 months 1 week 4 days 4 hours ago) and read 3945 times:
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Quoting AlnessW (Reply 3):
Quoting RussianJet (Reply 2):
Inevitably some flights will board using buses.

Right, but I thought that those were more geared towards CRJs and other small aircraft.

Then I guess you didn't consider that this is one of the most heavily congested and widebody-heavy airports in existence?

Quoting AlnessW (Reply 3):
What I was wondering was as to where we are specifically. E.g, what terminal, which gates, etc.

Your itinerary didn't tell you which terminal you were arriving at? To be honest, that is something I would always know before travelling.



✈ Every strike of the hammer is a blow against the enemy. ✈
User currently offlineBongodog1964 From United Kingdom, joined Oct 2006, 3538 posts, RR: 3
Reply 6, posted (3 years 10 months 1 week 4 days 4 hours ago) and read 3937 times:

By the sound of your report you arrived at T5B, some of the jetways at either end of the terminal are very long to say the least. The 30 second train took you from T5B to T5A. The B terminal generally takes long haul, and 5A a mix, but predominately short haul.

With regard to being bussed to a 772, as explained by another post, the smallest aircraft at T5 are a319's so you can be bussed to quite large aircraft. Quite a few gates cannot accomodate 777's and 747's, so bussing to a 772, is considered beter than standing a 744 on a remote stand.
The bussing situation will improve when T5C opens, but BA will still have to bus somewhere in the region of 10% of T5 flights.

With regard to the security procedures, for flights to the US these are dictated by your TSA. Not only do we have to go through these, but we have to fil in ESTA applications on line before hand, and the aIrline has to gain pre cleareance for every passenger before take off.

With regard to the long corridors and separation of incoming and departing passengers, these serve to keep the departure area sterile, incoming passengers are segregated as they may have arrived from countries with less stringent security.
The alternative is time consuming arrival screening as practiced at some US airports

As to the lack of staff in the arrival corridors, they aren't necessary as the signs show you where to go, plus there is only one exit route, if you went the wrong way at a junction you would soon hit a dead end at a gate.


User currently offlineLHR380 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 7, posted (3 years 10 months 1 week 3 days 14 hours ago) and read 3865 times:

Quoting AlnessW (Thread starter):
So we deplane, thank the crew, and walk up the long Jetway into terminal. It is completely empty and lifeless. The only people there are the folks that are getting off of our same flight. There are signs pointing us in the direction of flight connections/international arrivals, but that's it. No airport employees in sight.

You arrived on the arrivals floor of T5B. The only people that would be in that area are passengers arriving on international services. The upper level is for departing passengers. that way arriving and departing passengers are separated.

Quoting AlnessW (Thread starter):
First off, where the hell are we? Second off, where the hell are we going? We walk down a long hallway and eventually start going up lots and lots of long escalators, still in lifeless areas. By the time we make it to the transfer area, a fair amount of time has passed by. There is a sign there that points you to the transfer area if your flight is listed on the nearby departure board. If your connecting flight was NOT listed, then another sign directs you down to an escalator. Our connecting flight to ATH, BA 640, was not listed. So we go down some more escalators and hallways, down to a train stop. The train arrives, and we ride a very short distance (no more than 30 seconds) to another station. We disembark and continue walking. Still no idea where we are. We continue our escalator/hallway pattern until we finally make it to our international connections area.

In the area you were in, you arrived on one of the end stands from the sound of it. After walking down the corridor towards the transfer area, you would have either gone down the escalator of lift to the track transit system which runs between T5A B and C (C is not open yet) That should have only taken 5 minutes, not even that really. As soon as you get of the train the signs point to the escalator of lifts that take you to the arrivals floor in T5A

Quoting AlnessW (Thread starter):
We then individually walk up to an airport agent at a desk who scans our connecting boarding pass, looks at her computer screen for a few seconds, return our passes and waves us through. So she had obviously just checked us against some computer record. Hmm...

Here you have made it to the main international flight connections centre. On the right side you would have seen the main reservation desks for flight connections, directly in front you would have the main conformance desks for international and European flights, and to the left the domestic transfer point. Boarding pass is swiped to make sure you have enough time to get to your flight (There is a conformance check in Terminal 5, landside to airside you have to be going thru security no later then 35 minutes before departure. It changes slightly in connections) The swipe always makes sure all relevant passport and visa checks have been done, ticket numbers are in the system and you are "Ready to fly"

Quoting AlnessW (Thread starter):
What a process! So, what exactly happened? Where did our flight arrive? Why was it such a long journey to our flight connections area? Etc, etc...

You arrived into T5B, made your way to T5A and the flight connections centre where you passed thru conformance and made your way to the T5A departures level and awaited your next flight.

Quoting AlnessW (Thread starter):
Now, why doesn't LHR assign your flight a gate until 20-30 minutes until it boards? Signs directed us to escalators/elevators that took us down about 2 levels, to the ground floor of the terminal. A10a is yet another shuttle bus gate, with no Jetway. Come on, LHR. You can't get us a Jetway for a Boeing 777? Really?

Terminal 5 contains nearly the entire operation for British Airways. At points there are not enough gates available for every single plane to be on stand attached to a gate, and coaching is needed. This is alleviated slightly when T5C opens up sometime next year, but there will still be the odd coaching flight.


User currently offlinebananaboy From United Kingdom, joined Oct 2004, 1574 posts, RR: 23
Reply 8, posted (3 years 10 months 1 week 3 days 6 hours ago) and read 3825 times:

Quoting Quokka (Reply 1):
To improve passenger flow: Heathrow handles more international passengers than any other airport. Arriving passengers want to get to baggage reclaim or a transfer gate. Departing passengers want to get from check-in and security to the plane. It makes sense for arriving passengers to be kept separate from departing passengers.

Whilst that is an important reason, I believe that the Department of Transport brought in new rules that insist on complete segregation of arriving and departing passengers, which meant that the older T3 and T1 had to be updated. T5 would have been designed with this regulation in mind.

Quoting B747forever (Reply 4):
Well the problem is that the smallest a/c in LHR is A320 and Boeing 737 family aircraft.

Pretty accurate, though there are airlines using smaller aircraft regularly such as Brussels Airlines, bmi British Midland and Lufthansa.


Mark



All my life, I've been kissing, your top lip 'cause your bottom one's missing
User currently offlineLHR380 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 9, posted (3 years 10 months 1 week 3 days 2 hours ago) and read 3796 times:

Quoting bananaboy (Reply 8):
Pretty accurate, though there are airlines using smaller aircraft regularly such as Brussels Airlines, bmi British Midland and Lufthansa.

And not forgetting AF who send in an ATR


User currently offlineAlnessW From United States of America, joined Jun 2010, 618 posts, RR: 1
Reply 10, posted (3 years 10 months 1 week 1 day 21 hours ago) and read 3720 times:

Quoting B747forever (Reply 4):
BTW I actually do enjoy boarding by stairs because one gets so close to the aircraft. When I flew LAX-LHR we disembarked through stairs and got bussed to the terminal, but it was worth it because I got so close to the 747!.

That's true, actually. When boarding our flight to BOS via buses/stairs on a 777 it was pretty cool to be so close when going up the stairs. To the right of me was the most monstrous jet engine I had ever seen. I was tempted to pull out my camera...

What I don't like about boarding with buses is that you are crammed in with lots of other passengers, with little available seating. Odor from others can also be a problem during warm weather. It was a considerably long bus ride from A10a out to the 777 (6 or 8 minutes).

Quoting Bongodog1964 (Reply 6):
By the sound of your report you arrived at T5B, some of the jetways at either end of the terminal are very long to say the least. The 30 second train took you from T5B to T5A. The B terminal generally takes long haul, and 5A a mix, but predominately short haul.

Thank you for the info.

Quoting Bongodog1964 (Reply 6):
With regard to being bussed to a 772, as explained by another post, the smallest aircraft at T5 are a319's so you can be bussed to quite large aircraft. Quite a few gates cannot accomodate 777's and 747's, so bussing to a 772, is considered beter than standing a 744 on a remote stand.

We were departing on a 777.

Quoting LHR380 (Reply 7):
You arrived on the arrivals floor of T5B. The only people that would be in that area are passengers arriving on international services. The upper level is for departing passengers. that way arriving and departing passengers are separated.

Thank you for all the detailed information! When is C scheduled to be open?

Now, are there detailed maps of these arrival/departures areas, gate locations etc? The maps that I found (including on Heathrow's website) do not show these locations.


User currently offlineBA319-131 From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2001, 8509 posts, RR: 55
Reply 11, posted (3 years 10 months 1 week 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 3707 times:
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Quoting AlnessW (Reply 10):
When is C scheduled to be open?

T5C is due to open next year IIRC, even then, some aircraft will need to be busses though only something like 5% of operations, again IIRC.

I have used T5 many many times and always found signage to be excellent, perhaps you were a little tired?

Quoting AlnessW (Thread starter):
These guys were really paranoid about security. Lots of security folks at the gate. I was told that photography was not allowed

- Have you been to America lately?? The most paranoid country in the world. I still love the place though!



111,732,3,4,5,7,8,BBJ,741,742,743,744,752,762,763,764,772,77L,773,77W,L15,D10,30,40,AB3,AB6,A312.313,319,320,321,332,333
User currently offlineBongodog1964 From United Kingdom, joined Oct 2006, 3538 posts, RR: 3
Reply 12, posted (3 years 10 months 1 week 1 day 12 hours ago) and read 3683 times:

Quoting AlnessW (Reply 10):
Quoting Bongodog1964 (Reply 6):
With regard to being bussed to a 772, as explained by another post, the smallest aircraft at T5 are a319's so you can be bussed to quite large aircraft. Quite a few gates cannot accomodate 777's and 747's, so bussing to a 772, is considered beter than standing a 744 on a remote stand.

We were departing on a 777.

772, generally used terminology for a 777-200


User currently offlinebabybus From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 13, posted (3 years 10 months 6 days 9 hours ago) and read 3538 times:

Quoting AlnessW (Thread starter):
First off, where the hell are we? Second off, where the hell are we going?

Maybe that question came from your state of mind at the time? It's difficult getting off long haul flights and trying to orientate yourself at a time when you should be asleep.

Once I got off an early morning long haul and stood for over 45 mins at Hatton Cross waiting for a bus to Feltham. About 40 buses to Feltham probably passed me in that time! Just wasn't thinking properly.

However, the system for changing flights is pretty much the same at any airport in the world. And there are signs everywhere. Was this your first flight, hence the confusion and terror?


User currently offlineAlnessW From United States of America, joined Jun 2010, 618 posts, RR: 1
Reply 14, posted (3 years 10 months 5 days 19 hours ago) and read 3496 times:

Quoting BA319-131 (Reply 11):
I have used T5 many many times and always found signage to be excellent, perhaps you were a little tired?

Very likely. I also might not be remembering correctly - who knows.

Quoting BA319-131 (Reply 11):
Have you been to America lately?? The most paranoid country in the world. I still love the place though!

Sad but true!

Quoting babybus (Reply 13):
Maybe that question came from your state of mind at the time? It's difficult getting off long haul flights and trying to orientate yourself at a time when you should be asleep.

Indeed, quite possible. Also as mentioned above, I might not be remembering things correctly.

Quoting babybus (Reply 13):
Was this your first flight, hence the confusion and terror?

Certainly not, however this was my first time over the Atlantic, as well as my first LHR experience.


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