BAA Pulls Its Finger Out: T5 Security South to Be Redesigned

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This topic contains 45 replies, has 22 voices, and was last updated by  AnthonyDunn 17 May 2012
at 17:00

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  • Anonymous


    T5 is a terrific improvement over what previously passed for the passenger experience at London Heathrow (LHR).

    Following the debacle of the first few weeks of operation, most of the issues have been ironed out. But there still remain fundamental issues with the BAA operated Security search areas.

    Extensive public tests of the terminal prior to opening clearly illustrated the fact that the “automatically returnable” trays were confusing for passengers to use, specifically as the three abreast loading table actually increases the time taken to load your belongings onto the trays. Yet, true to BAA form, nothing was done to refine the design. The same inability to learn from experience blighted the opening of the terminal.

    The lack of a direct route from the First Check In Area to the Concorde Room was a missed opportunity, rescued only by BA’s insistance on an emergency exit being converted into the infamous “White Door” on the right after Security South.

    Once in service, it was clear that the lack of a properly thought out fast track channel was a significant issue, and it took a long time for this to be put in place.

    There have been further problems with transit passengers massing at the top of the escalators within Security North, and further confusion as passengers arriving at the satellite T5B were directed to main terminal T5, only to return all the way back to T5B – often just metres from where they landed and hour or so previously .

    My own experiences of entering security have been relatively queue free. I have heard anecdotally that at busy times insufficient security channels are open and long lines can develop, resulting in one or other of the Security areas being closed for a short period.

    Passenger numbers are markedly down on previous years. The third satellite, T5C, has yet to open. British Airways plans to introduce the first of its twelve A380 superjumbos in 2012.

    So given T5 has not been functioning at supposed maximum capacity, there really is no excuse for the brand new system not to be a world leading example of how to run an efficient passenger-centric security experience.

    Despite providing a markedly good service during the early months when few BA flights operated from T5, it is clear BAA have not properly planned and resourced this facility for the actual numbers now using it.

    As a consequence BA has had to pay extra for dedicated “Fast Track” security lines for First, Club and elite cardholders. This is also available to Amex Centurion holders (worthless as I cannot imagine any Centurion Cardholders – fee £1800 per annum – travelling economy).

    Despite having paid for Fast Track service, BAA security goons failed to police access properly, and did not have enough dedicated scanners on Fast Track, often causing delays longer than was the case in the regular line.

    Chatting to a BA Board Member last month, he mentioned that this was a particular concern of BA Management, and pressure was being put on BAA to resolve the unsatisfactory situation.

    Fast Track has already been extended to commence earlier, at the photo check stage.

    Seems the plan is to extend the smaller South Security (adjacent to the First check-in and the three main BA Lounges) into the IRIS/UK Customs office space behind the wall on the far left of the scanners.

    More Fast Track lanes will be added to the left of the current Fast Track lane, with additional machines dedicated to ensure premium passengers receive, as originally intended, a true Fast Track service.

    The T5B connections area will also be improved to allow more B-B and eventually T5C-T5B and C-C customers to remain over there and ease the main connections areas in T5A (the main T5 building). T5C opens in 2010.

    No word yet on when this will all happen. So, some small improvements on the way, shame it took so long.

    Still some distance for BAA to go to improve both staffing levels and the attitude of T5 security goons.

    Strange how BAA gets security so right, with reduced facilities, at Edinburgh (EDI) yet fails to replicate this at its flagship terminal.


    About time too. On Fri evening I was advised to leave Fasttrack and go through the other security channel as there was no queue – there was about 15 in Fasttrack.
    This has been happeneing for weeks, especially at the South area and I am glad something is being done.


    But when will they sort out Security North? I frequently travel BRU > LHR and then on to somewhere intercontinental and the chaos needs to be seen to be believed. You enter ‘fast track’ on level 1 then go up the dedicated escalator to be dumped with everybody else at the far south of the North security lanes. There is a very narrow passageway to get through to get to the Fast Track lanes in the middle. Pathetic design really and I agree absolutely with the point about arriving at B, going to A to clear and then back to B [except that BRU flights all seem to arrive at A!



    Went through Fast Track at T5 yesterday. Yet again (and this is becoming a bit of a game…) I noted the person who entered the ‘normal’ security queue at the same time I entered the Fast Track queue, was through before me.

    To start with, both Fast Track queues required the removal of ALL shoes. The normal queue? No requirement.

    When the Fast Track queue finally shrunk to an acceptable number of passengers (about 8 in each line) a BAA chap opened up barrier between the normal queue and Fast Track queue to allow about 50 passengers into Fast Track. I don’t think the First and Business passengers whom happened to come through right behind this herd were very impressed.

    BA must do a better job in policing BAA, it is a service both BA and the their premium passengers have paid well for.


    > BA must do a better job in policing BAA

    Couldn’t agree more : about 12 months ago I was going to Kuwait or somewhere so went to LHR5 at about 21:15, showed docs to BA then to the sentinel at Security South [there was a giant sign at Security North saying ‘Congestion, please use Security South’] … went behind the partition to find nobody …. literally. Then a senior manager appeared and told me [very rudelyand almost shouting] to get out : this security was closed [nothing about ‘service’ or ‘sorry’ and he could have been talking to a non-English speaker]. I was told that South closes at 21:30 – he confirmed it was 21:20 at the time – but it was clear that it had been shut down by 21:15 at best . BA is [and therefore ‘we’ are] essentially paying for something not provided …


    I have noticed this as well! What’s the point of fast track if the BAA ‘bloke’ constantly tops up the queue with everyone else? Its really annoying.


    Heathrow T5 is a fabulous terminal for BA, with probably one of the best lounges in the world (the first class lounge), and BA run a very good in-flight service. However, they are extensively let down by BAA – why do they let this happen?
    I have recently had to pass through T5 on several occasions and in both directions. 1). On arrival from domestic flights there has been on my three most recent occasions a 200m queue at the ‘check ticket’ point – because BAA had one rather than two operatives stationed at this check-point. This is frustrating and wholly unnecessary and lets down the reputation of BA and T5. 2). On returning from an overseas trip and having the aircraft parked way from a jetway there is an extensive wait for a stairway. The captain typically proudly announces that the arrival is early, but this is then countered by the time it takes to get off the plane to get to the terminal. EasyJet are consistently able to get a stairway to their planes within 2 minutes – why does it often take BA 15mins? 3). When arriving at the T5 flight connections, there are now 5 queues to navigate (rather than 2 when we had to go from T4 via central flight connections). It is difficult to understand why there is now a 250% increase in queues. The situation is further exacerbated by the significant queues at security where space is tight. Thus, passengers struggle to get from the top of the escalator to a queue and then wait over 15mins to get through the queue. Why can O’Hare – a very busy airport – manage to have queues of 4-5 people and plenty of space? More checkpoints are needed from BAA, and more space in the security check area. The space between the back wall and the queue entry points is too tight to allow passengers to move from the top of the escalator to a queue entry point. It should have been possible to simulate the queue situation and design so that there are either enough checkpoints .

    BA are losing business because of these trivial behaviours by their own ground staff, from inefficient support from BAA, and because of a silly design feature of the T5 security area. Why don’t BA sort out these trivial issues?


    British Airways has only itself to blame.

    To allow the ‘fast track’ shambles to continue for over a year has cost a lot of business, I know I have been connecting through other airports and using other airlines.

    If you are the sole user of a facility and cannot quickly change your service provider’s poor practices, well ……


    I have travelled a couple of times in Club Class, but were never offered the Fast Track Security channel. Do I need to ask for it or should I be told about it?


    When was you last Club *World* trip from T5?


    May this year.


    Well, the Fast Track has been up and running since very shortly after T5 opened, and was extended to commence prior to the boarding pass checkers around May this year.

    Although it is possible you just missed the extension of Fast Track, the regular fast track must have been there.

    Though it has improved marginally of late, it is still run by BAA who are wholly useless in appreciating the concept of expediting premium passengers, so you may indeed have expereinced it and just not noticed.

    Fast Track is also open to Centurion Cardholders, who all fly economy and natch are no doubt thrilled at this extension of their benefits…….


    No, I waited for about 25 minutes in the general queue.


    I decided to try T5 again, as it is nearly a year since my last effort, which was a shambles.

    At 6pm on a Friday night, only half the south security lanes were open.

    I left the fasttrack queue after a while, as it was apparent it was going nowhere and used a normal queue.

    Eventually got through after 35 minutes.

    I was travelling on a business class ticket that cost several thousands of pounds.

    I won’t be back to try for the hat trick of appalling service.

    It does not matter how good the lounges are (and they are very good) or the inflight service (which is on a par with LH, LX etc), ifthe ground experience is dreadful.

    British Airways needs to learn this lesson, quickly and take some decisive action.

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