A couple of first impressions on T5.
Arriving by underground you have a choice of lifts (elevators) or escalators. Having hand luggage only, we took the escalators. There are three or four successive ones, and they leave you just outside the terminal on a covered landing. But there are no signs for departures. Eventually someone told us we should take the lifts the rest of the way up. These are the same lifts we ignored at the bottom. Never mind. On close inspection, the lifts don’t have call buttons, they just stop automatically. Except they only stop on the way down, not on the way up. Eventually we gave up waiting for one going up and just caught one down again so we could then go up again. Nice to see the basement again. Perhaps I missed the point of all of this, but it wasn’t a very good first impression.
Landside, departures looks, well, big. Already checked in, so walk straight through to security. I’ve always been frustrated by how slowly people prepare themselves for the scanners – after all, we’ve all been in the queue watching and waiting for our turn, so why then act as though it’s a surprise that you have to take laptops out, take off shoes and belts, coast etc….? This new system tries to speed things up. There are 3 (I think) different stations to stand at as you undress. Laptops stay in bags, but shoes and coats off. Meanwhile two passengers are doing the same next to you. Visible sense of getting on with it and helping this new process work. The baskets arrive on a lower level around your knees, so no need to grab one from a pile at the end of the conveyor belt. Instead you fish them out, fill them up and then put them on the rollers and they go into the machine – should make things three times as fast….
If you are at position one (closest to the scanner), you can’t get the basket onto the roller because position 2 and 3 are filling it up. So you wait for those to enter the scanner before you can put on your own tray. Then on the other side of the scanner, the baskets are all mixed up, and there are three of you trying to get dressed again while jumping around one another to get your shoes, coat, jacket etc from the mixed up baskets. A merry dance. And it’s made into a quick step since people are worried the basket will disappear to the left back into the machine and then be recycled for those waiting for the scanner. People are panicking. In fact, there are sensors which hold up these trays if there are any belongings left in them (or so I was reassured), but there are no signs to tell you that, so everyone is hassled.
Then you look for your flight – which in our case, hadn’t got a gate assigned, so we went to the lounge to the far right of the terminal. To get there you seems to have to go down then up a flight of escalators, but perhaps I got lost. Then there are several floors of lounges. I was with a gold card holder, so we went into first, which is huge and excellent, I thought, though it seemed empty with most of the long haul flights not yet departing T5. When it was time to leave, we learned that we were departing from Pier B, got a lift down there (the voice in the lift said we were going to -2 and we went to -3, or vice versa, but I’m sure they’ll sort that out, and then it was on a shuttle train like at Gatwick. The gate was having problems with the signs as well, but we got away on time.
Positives? It’s big, there will soon be a lounge on this B pier, and, um, it looks new. I’m afraid the art work leaves me cold, but then I’m a peasant. Why would it matter to me that there are two horse sculptures standing on either side of the entrance, or an installation against a wall where the leaves drop off the trees? I was more impressed with the views of the runway from the Gate – you realise how busy this airport is when they are taking off so often. You can also see how far you are away from the rest of the airport, or the other terminals at least. I’d be happy to be corrected on any of this, we were in a bit of a rush.