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Heathrow Airport (LHR), located west of London, is the busiest airport that serves London, England, UK. It is geographically close to Windsor, with primary rail connections via the Great Western mainline.
Other London airports include Stansted (STN) and Luton (LUT) to the north of London, Gatwick (LGW) to the south of London, and London City Airport (LCY) along the Thames River in the Docklands Area of London.
BAA offer official Heathrow Airport Maps online.
BAA, the commercial firm who operate London/Heathrow, are undertaking a "Grand Plan" to realign which terminal buildings are used by which airlines. Their overall goal is to put airlines with common alliances into the same terminal building. BAA keep altering the airline move schedules, so it is wise to verify one's arrival terminal and departure terminal before arriving at Heathrow.
Recent Heathrow Terminal Updates
- The piers of Terminal 1 are being gutted and refurbished pier-by-pier at present, while still being used for flight operations.
- Construction of Heathrow East, which will replace Terminal 1 and Terminal 2, is underway and readily visible.
- Terminal 3's entry area was reworked during 2009 to provide improved physical security.
- Some believe that if British Airways (BA) purchase of British Midland (BD) is approved by various regulatory bodies, then some Star Alliance carriers will move from Terminal 3 into Terminal 1 faster than currently planned.
The policy of the Heathrow Airport operator (BAA) is to strictly enforce the IATA Recommendations on carry-on luggage size. This means that the maximum dimensions of carry-on baggage are routinely verified using test bins located at the entrance to pre-flight security screening. The IATA rule (below) is different from the customary US rule of "45 linear inches", as it has fixed maxima along each axis.
To quote the IATA Web Site:
Cabin baggage should have maximum length of 22 in (56 cm), width of 18 in (45 cm) and depth of 10 in (25 cm). These dimensions include wheels, handles, side pockets, etc.
Of course, one might get lucky at the checkpoint, but the above rule is normally strictly enforced at all LHR Security Checkpoints.
Destination-specific current Security Information is available from the LHR web site here.
Many airlines have cooperative arrangements. The three main airline alliances are "Star Alliance", "One World", and "Sky Team". All of these have at least some presence at Heathrow Airport.
Eventually, all Star Alliance carriers will operate from LHR Terminal 1.
Today, the following airlines are operating from Terminal 1:
- Air New Zealand (NZ),
- Asiana (OZ)
- Austrian (OS)
- British Midland (BD)
- Brussels (SN)
- Croatia (OU)
- Lot (LO)
- Lufthansa (LH),
- South African Airways (SA)
- Swiss (LX)
- TAM (JJ)
- TAP Portugal (TP)
- United Airlines (UA)
- US Airways (US)
Most other Star Alliance airlines currently operate from Terminal 3:
- Air Canada (AC)
- Air China (CA)
- All Nippon Airlines (NH)
- Blue 1 (KF)
- Singapore Airlines (SQ)
- Scandinavian Air System (SK)
- Thai International Airways (TG)
- Turkish (TK)
NOTE WELL: United Airlines (UA) legacy flights to Newark (EWR) still operate from LHR Terminal 4, which primarily serves the SkyTeam airlines.
NOTE WELL: British Midland (BD) has been sold by Lufthansa AG to British Airways. If approved by various regulatory bodies, British Airways will dissolve British Midland, and use the airport landing/takeoff slots and aircraft for British Airways flights. This will significantly reduce Star Alliance connectivity within the UK.
Star Alliance Lounges
Terminal 1 has a joint "Star Alliance Gold Lounge" for departures or transit.
To enter, one must show either (A) a premium-class boarding pass or (B) one's Star Alliance Gold card and a same-day boarding pass. Travellers not travelling in a premium-class cabin must have their Star Alliance Gold card in hand to show the lounge staff at entry.
United Airlines fliers should note that this is NOT a Red Carpet Club, so different rules apply about sponsoring guests/colleagues to enter the Star Alliance Gold Lounge at LHR.
US Airways Club members should note that one must have a club card with a Star Alliance Lounge logo printed upon it to gain access. The US Airways Club card with only a Red Carpet Club logo is not enough, because this is NOT a Red Carpet Club.
Terminal 1 also has a "Star Alliance Arrivals Lounge" (by invitation only) with an obscure entrance after clearing UK Customs and UK Immigration. This has limited operating hours, and is primarily used for early morning arrivals from overseas with paid business-class or paid first-class tickets.
Terminal 3 offers 2 Star Alliance Gold departure lounges:
- Scandanavian Air System (SK) and Air Canada (AC) jointly operate the London Lounge.
- Singapore Airlines operates a Kris Flyer lounge with business class and first class sections.
Air Canada also operates an arrivals lounge at Terminal 3 for their own inbound flights.
British AIrways has Heathrow as its primary hub airport, of course.
- British Airways primarily operates out of the new Terminal 5, which is rather distant from Terminals 1 & 3.
- American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, and Qantas operate from Terminal 3.
One World Lounges
British Airways (BA) have 2 Terraces lounges in Terminal 5-A (at North and South ends respectively), and a further Terraces lounge in Terminal 5-B. Terraces lounges are available to passengers travelling in Business Class or those with One World Sapphire (or better) status. There is also the FIRST lounge in Terminal 5A (open to passengers travelling in FIRST or with Emerald OW status), and the invitation-only Concorde Room. Both of these are at the south end of Terminal 5.
Cathay Pacific (CX) have a lounge in Terminal 3. American Airlines (AA) have a departure lounge and an AArrivals lounge, both located in Terminal 3. The AArrivals Lounge has a somewhat restrictive admission policy, but at least some non-AA One World airlines have arrangements to use this arrivals lounge.
Eventually, all SkyTeam airlines will operate from LHR Terminal 4. Most SkyTeam airlines are already in LHR Terminal 4.
Air France, Delta, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, and Korean Air all operate from Heathrow, but none of them have a major presence.
Sky Team Lounges
Several Sky Team lounges are located in Terminal 4.
Transportation within the Airport
- Inter-Terminal buses exist, but are difficult to locate and use.
- One can use the Heathrow Express train to connect between Terminals 1/2/3 and Terminal 4 at no charge.
- Allow lots of time to change terminals at Heathrow when connecting.
Transport to/from LHR
There are 3 primary rail services to/from Heathrow Airport, along with a variety of both long-distance and local bus services. Most public transport services shutdown at 2200 daily and do not restart until early the next morning (perhaps 0500 to 0700).
People with a very early morning departure from Heathrow Airport might wish to consider staying at a hotel very near to the airport for the night before that departure.
The least expensive rail service between Heathrow Airport and London is the London Underground's Piccadilly Line. This slow service stops numerous places along the way. It can take an hour or more to arrive at the airport from central London, depending on how well the London Underground is operating that day. This service serves all Terminals at Heathrow, including the new Terminal 5.
The faster yet still affordable Heathrow Connect rail service shares the same railway platforms at Heathrow Airport as the Heathrow Express, and travels the same route. Unlike the Heathrow Express, this is a slower stopping service, also running between Heathrow and Paddington railway station. The service normally runs about every 30 minutes and takes about 25 minutes to reach Paddington. This service is especially convenient for passengers connecting to National Rail services to the west of Heathrow. One can connect to the west-bound Great Western Railway (GWR) mainline services at the Hayes & Harlington GWR station, which is the first stop after leaving Heathrow Airport.
The moderately expensive Heathrow Express railway service connects London's Paddington railway station to Heathrow Airport, with stops at Paddington, Terminal 1/2/3 (a joint stop), and Terminal 4. The service normally runs every 15 minutes and takes about 15-20 minutes between the airport and Paddington. Paddington railway station connects to the London Underground's "Circle Line" and "Hammersmith & City" line. Both standard class and first class seats are offered.
Heathrow's Bus Terminal is located on the surface between Terminal 1 and Terminal 3. Underground walkways connect it to those 2 terminal buildings. Both long-distance and local bus service terminates there.
- An express bus runs regularly between Heathrow Airport's Bus Terminal and Reading railway station.
- An express bus service also connects between Heathrow Airport, Gatwick Airport, and Stansted Airport.
- Other express bus services serve selected other cities, such as Cambridge and Oxford.
The local bus services are much cheaper than the dedicated airport to hotel Hoppa Bus services. These local services accept a London Oyster Card (electronic payment card).
- Local bus 'Route 140' connects the Hayes & Harlington railway station, with Heathrow Airport.
Airport Car Hire
You will find all major car rental companies:
A number of hotels exist on Bath Road adjacent to the northern runway at Heathrow Airport. Most of these have "Hoppa Bus" connections every 20 minutes or so during the main part of the day (0530 to 2230).
- The bus costs about 5 UK pounds/person each way.
- Hoppa Bus tickets can be bought from the Front Desk of the hotel, and normally can be added to one's room bill.
- Be careful to verify that the bus you board is going to the Airport Terminal that you intend to go to.
- Some buses only go to Terminal 5, other buses only go to Terminals 1 & 3.