I actually like the Art in T5; it really lifts the terminal beyond a rather mundane functional space into something altogether rather impressive. But then I am not a peasant 😉
As a showcase for British Art I think it works well, and helps set the right tone for premium passengers. I particularly like “The Cloud” (an old-style clicker board shaped like a cloud with reflective panels which change configuration) and “All the Time in World” (a massive bright blue world clock homage to Time) situated as you approach the South Lounges. Well worth a trip even if you don’t have lounge access.
The many levels are an annoyance, but probably are there because of the lack of space on the LHR site – though it’s a huge building the floor plan is quite small for an airport terminal with that capacity; building up was the only option, and hence the need for all the lifts and escalators which does not typify the experience in most greenfield site airports.
The upside of this is an impressive double height mezzanine space which is what allows an excellent view of the apron and the airport in general; so there is a real sense of progressing towards your aircraft and ultimate destination, even if that progress is somewhat alpine.
Sadly, only those travelling with Concorde Room cards or travelling First (nb no longer written FIRST as this is now rebranded in a softer lower case logo) manage to escape directly from security by turning right after the scanners in South Security.
When you are next there you will notice a discrete door which leads directly into the Holy of Holies.
There, private cabanas, fireplaces, high backed club chairs and a Boardroom decked out with chairs taken from the Rocket herself wait to pamper elite travellers while they wait for their Elemis Spa pre-flight massage.
The rest of us must trundle through the terminal, past – and what a surprise this is – all the shops. For this you have the Spanish owned monopoly BAA to thank.
Somebody mentioned the 90% of travellers who don’t have lounge access; in fact, in this terminal the proportion of premium travellers will be among the highest.
This is not so much the case for short haul (where only full fare, Silver and Gold cardholders get access) or European services where Club Europe are allowed in. But certainly on longhaul aboard BA these are the dominant force.
Just take a look at a BA 747 seat map; most of the floor area is dedicated to Club World and First, especially since the abolition of the “Low-J” configuration. Just 20 of its 60 rows are for economy passengers:
To be fair, the shops are a great showcase for British goods, and have a very high standard of finish. But I am not so sure the prices are all that competitive, even without tax. At least it gives those without lounge access something to do while waiting for their flight.
I have not myself yet been out to T5B, but I would imagine the reason for the walk back is because the train is in an area which is secure for outbound pax, whereas once you have travelled back to the main terminal you must clear security once more and are therefore not secure; though having a moving walkway would at least have seemed prudent for tired arriving passengers.
It is certainly not the perfect air terminal, but no matter what you think of T5 is impressive, and once the glitches have been sorted out will be a great asset to both British Airways and this country.