Okay, so I completed my T5 round trip yesterday. Let me say up front, the terminal looks great! And it's f*cking HUGE! I went for a wander aroudn the whole airport last week for kicks - and to find IRIS till I realised it's always airside, stupid home office - starting with T4 (a construction site) then taking Heathrow Connect to the Central station for a visit to T3 (nice on the outside, gloomy on the inside except for the VS check-in area), then onto T2 (rotting, though the tunnel to get there was nice) and then T1 (dingy as hell, possibly even worse than T2). The final stop was T5 via the Heathrow Express and was like a beacon of fresh air, illuminated with natural light too. The landscaping outside the arrivals hall is nice too.
When arriving a couple of weeks ago the terminal was in a bit of chaos. The baggage handler seemed to have trouble offloading the pallets from the aircraft, so no wonder it took 20 minutes for the baggage to arrive. The baggage hall, or a least the bit of it partitioned for domestic arrivals, looked a mess, with unclaimed baggage strewn all over the place. The information screens also were also not keeping up to date with the status of the baggage, probably due to the manual sorting. If I wasn't travelling with checked baggage though, it would have been cool, because it was a short walk from the gate down some stairs to the baggage hall and a short walk from there out to the arrivals hall.
BTW, the road signage is terrible.
Returning yesterday, the terminal seemed to be operating more normally. It's been ages at least since any Chaos at Heathrow story%u2122. Unfortunately, that is the problem. Check-in was uneventful. I am still confused about what the check-in zones are for though. Apart from zones A and J at each end, which seem to be for the aristos, all other check-in zones are the same. The information screens just say check-in at any one of them.
Security was probably definitely quicker than the last time I went through T1. There are plenty of machines, which is good. I was worried when I did my trial in November, but clearly the security area was unfinished then. The IRIS place was closed, stupid home office, so I just browsed the departure lounge. It's f*cking HUGE! I think there's easily enough room for them to partition it into domestic and international, while still retaining the international lounge as an impressive retail complex. What's the point of shops without duty free anyway? Besides, I have a thing for a certain kind of symmetry and partioning arrivals but not departures is asymmetric. Though it was good at the southern end because you could watch the 09R hold, where the take-off traffic was (and listen in if you have an airband receiver, which I do) and yes I'm fully aware that had they partitioned the lounge, I would have been stuck on the north side.
Now here is the thing. Let no more benefit of the doubt be given to BAA. They are in it to run shopping malls. The place is crammed to the rafters with shops. The walking space seemed reasonable, though given the terminal isn't at full operation yet, I am concerned for how crowded it will feel when at rush hour once the move is complete. All that size is squandered on squeezing in extra shops. Seating is poor. At busy gates, many people had to stand in wait. I didn't get to see the B building, because I was frightened that if I went there, the only way back would be a round trip to Hong Kong. I hope they put more emphasis on seating there because if the A gates were meant to service narrowbodies mostly, I shudder to think of the general discomfort if the passengers of a 747 had to use something similar. Yes, it's a shopping mall. The problem is that at shopping malls, once you're done shopping, you go home. In an airport, you have to go sit down. But where? The TV's though were a nice touch though for those that could find a seat. But all they had was the news. No Canadian candid camera shows.
Oh and it was really hot in there as well.
It looks great, but the design is sub-optimal. It may be a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to be using it... except the alternatives are in a different league of suckdom, so I suppose Bluewater West does have to take the title, by a landslide of the best terminal in... er... a BAA airport. BHX is far superior. Come to think of it, EDI is quite nice too. So no. T5 doesn't get that title. It's the best terminal at a BAA in London. Although I haven't been to Stansted. And possibly the terminals at LGW are better functionally, although they look like crap. Okay, so T5 is the best terminal at LHR. Although, despite the horrendous dinge of the T1 check-in area, the domestic departure lounge is quite good. Okay, I have it. T5 is the best terminal at LHR west of the control tower. Yes, that'll do.
Okay, okay, I'm being harsh. The baggage system at LGW sucks royally. I'm thinking more of departure side I guess because that's where T5 is let down. It's not the most comfortable place to be while waiting for a delayed flight. It wasn't a huge delay, but we got fed some bullshit excuse of handling a disabled passenger in the lounge, whereas when we got on board, we were told it was a the fallout from the previous departure of the aircraft to EDI being delayed because of a broken jetty. The captain got a good laugh out of the passengers for sighing that malfunctions are become normal operation. He seemed a bit embarassed at the whole thing... as is the whole of the UK. The Scots are declaring UDI just to not be associated with that messand the Australians are becoming a republic because the Queen opened the place is therefore tainted.