It might not seem like much, but Heathrow Terminal 5 introduced self-service gates at the flight connections center in the past few weeks and the impact for some passengers is incredible. There are now three gates available for Fast Track customers (premium cabin or elite status) and it has reduced lines and wait times dramatically.
Simply scan a boarding pass on the reader and, assuming your itinerary is kosher, the gates open and you’re free to pass through. When I transited last weekend there were two agents stationed at the gates to assist customers who were rejected by the gates (self included the second time). That’s the same number typically staffing the Fast Track lane in my previous experiences but they now only deal with exceptions, not every traveler. On my first pass through I barely stopped walking and was already half-way up the escalator in a 6-hour-eastbound-redeye-jetlag-induced haze before I realized how quickly I’d passed through and that something about the experience was different. I asked about it while talking with the agent the second time through (my passport data was not properly scanned so they did that at transit, before I could head to the lounge or gate) and she acknowledged that it was an updated option for the terminal.
I’m not going to go so far as to say the update takes all the pain out of a T5 connection. I still had the pleasure of a hard stand in the rain on my second transit last week. But it is a significant improvement, assuming you’re one of the privileged few who get access to the new system. And hopefully the effort will be sufficiently successful that it will expand for other passengers soon enough.
Now if only they’d fix the concessions challenges and put in a few shops that offer decent take-away options for those who enjoy eating on board.
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