Flown from all the terminals in both of them many times (except T5
, of course
Terminal 1: Early morning is hell for checking in, especially BMI
. I flew to Madrid with them earlier this year (Tuesday 10th June) with our flight at 8:15am, and if we had luggage we'd have missed our flight. Luckily we didn't so we could use the seperate check-in. Security was not too bad, waited for around 20mins to get through. Once airside there are a lot of shops, restaurants and windows.
Terminal 2: Mayhem in the morning, check-in area of the terminal is very claustrophobic as the roof is so low. Flew from there to Madrid on Iberia in October 2001 at 07:30 and the check-in and security were moderate, but it seemed very crowded, especially Lufthansa.
Terminal 3: Again, early morning is hell. Luckily there are a lot of desks for most airlines. Flew from there on BWIA to Barbados in May 2001 and on Virgin Atlantic to San Francisco on July 10th 2003. Check-in for Virgin was okay because we were in premium economy so we had priority. Security in 2001 was hell, we waited over an hour to get through. But it seems they must have cleared it up because when i went to San Francisco at around the same time it was a breeze. Bit of a con once airside as they put you in a shop, and it's quite hard to find your way around, however they have a TGI Fridays so that makes up for it
Getting to your gate is quite confusing being very spread out. When i was going to Barbados i wanted to spot so we went down one of the terminal "wings" and we had to go through this small security thing to get back. Not too bad though, probably Heathrow's best
Terminal 4: Can be very crowded during the morning. I've only flown Vancouver from there in 2000 and that was a 16:30 departure so I've never actually experienced the morning rush, but i saw the crowds when i wanted to check out the terminal earlier this year. Evening, check-in can be quite hectic too for all the Australian, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, Cape Town, South American routes. I cannot remember much of the terminal because it was 3 years ago so it kinda sunk. I remember it was pretty average.
North Terminal: Nothing too bad for check-in, however they have desks for "All flights to the USA" so during the morning you can get caught up in queues of Houston/Dallas/Orlando travellers and Atlanta coming slight later (Plus Tampa etc). Air 2000 desks can be crowded for the early morning charter rush from about 4:00-6:00am (check-in). Security is a breeze, lots of them so done quickly. I've flown out of here many times so i know the airport pretty much inside out (Orlando, Orlando, Mauritius, Paris CDG
, Faro, Corfu etc). One through security you're introduced to a huge open space with shops all around the sides. Straight ahead of you, up the stairs is a good place to spot from gates 50+. You can also see the departures/arrivals to the left and all the aircraft on remote stands. Getting to you gate is confusing if you're travelling from one of the gates 50- as there is usually a long walk involved.
South: Easyjet check-in can be quite horrendous during the "busy hours" as can the other charter airline's check in. Security can be easy but can also form queues of about 10mins. Once through there is a great bar/spotting place upstairs allowing great views across the main concourse one the left side (the side you can't see very well from the viewing gallery). Extra security and a long walk is now included if you're in one of the far gates (i.e. 28).
Spotting - Heathrow: Well you all know the spectators place on top of T2
is closed now and that was a great place to go if you wanted to see arrivals/departures on the southern runway. From what we have now, all around the perimeter road can provide great spotting views, especially if you go right up to the fence. I recommend hatton cross if they're landing on the southern runway as they do come pretty low.
Spotting - Gatwick: Spectators gallery was a great place about 5+ years ago. Since, building work has gone on and it's almost impossible to see the end of 26L now. Another great place is to the west of the airfield, however this is only really any good on easterly winds, at which time it's amazing as you get aircraft coming in very low overhead and you have departures right in front of you. However there aren't many gaps in the fences and if there are spotters already there then they might be using the main holes in the gate. Still great though.
That's about it really - Disagreements welcome