13 May 2008

The shame of T5

From the outside it is a shining edifice ( a bit grubby with all that glass. I hope someone has remembered that glass needs to be cleaned to look nice). Landing at LHR these days is an impressive sight because T5 dominates the airport. It is a like a well choreographed ballet to watch. I enjoyed today BA’s hospitality for 7 hours between flights. I sampled as much as I could of the fare and facilities. Here are my impressions. Will T5 be able to handle the future volume? Will the $800 million emergency cash injection be enough. Can BAA recover, Will BA recover??? Read on.

1. It reminds me of the New BKK airport. That is not a positive comparison with other new terminals like the those in the Gulf.
2. The T5 design is a mess, I had heard other travelers describe it as good but not great. I will be more critical in saying there are some distinct design flaws and both BAA and BA are at fault
3. It is a very bad flow control airport.
4. The transfer features from T4 (where I landed ) to T5 were bad. However when more traffic is transferred then this should iron itself out.
5. Signage inside the terminal is confusing, the change in methodology will annoy many a frequent traveler, I guess we will have to get over it.
6. The boarding areas are simply too small. They are also WAY too complicated. The two story levels are just not good. Understandably this is due to the lack of space. However who ever came up with this idea should probably be shot. There are many other examples of better designs than this. New USA terminals like Seattle’s do a much better job.
7. Focus on smaller aircraft will come back to bite the airline as LHR continues to be restricted at its home base. Watching several flights board – I believe that BA better start having some flow control people come in and take over because when more Wide Bodies are in place then the airline is going to have a lot of problems.
8. Its too small. WHAT??? Yes it is just too small. Operating at about 50% capacity the terminal is going to have serious problems in the gate areas and other air side areas.
9. BA has abolished the Gold and First Class areas in the New Gallery concept. Gee – I don’t feel special any more. At the moment only the North area is open. If the South doesn’t have it then it wont exist. BA might as well abolish First Class and forget about the top tier of its FF class.
10. There is some VERY expensive and unnecessary kit – specifically the bag screening system is SLOWER than that of the conventional airports. It must have cost a fortune.
11. The entrance to Galleries, is both stupid and insulting. Its in a bad place its got very poor.
12. The quality of the build is clearly – well I could sugar coat it – but its crap. Poor fitting, bad finish, poor selection of materials. It is not going to wear well.

The only bright spot I was able to avoid the BAA Bag Gestapo. The measurement is enforced at security with the new bag screening system. They use the standard IATA size and the bags fit, YEA!!!

I guess you can say that T5 is better than T4. However my verdict? I think that BAA and BA should be chastened over the worst possible implementation of a new airport. However there is one positive thing we can say. Its better than the sewage farm who was the former occupant of the site. If you need to connect in Europe – avoid LHR.



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