How to avoid Heathrow T5

Started by Newshound, April 18, 2008, 06:51:59

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It is hard to imagine that the airport experience, especially at London's dreaded Heathrow, could get any worse. But the opening of Terminal 5 on March 27 was a fiasco of epic proportions. British Airways, sole occupiers of the "state-of-the-art" terminal, canceled hundreds of flights; some 20,000 bags were parted from their owners - many are still lost.

Despite reassurances from the airline that things will get better soon, travelers would be wise to avoid Terminal 5 over the next few weeks. Fortunately, there are options for travel with BA and other airlines at Terminals 1, 2, 3 or 4. Ten percent of BA's flights from the airport are not moving to Terminal 5; some short-haul flights are at Terminal 1, and flights to Singapore, Australia and Bangkok continue to fly from Terminal 4. (You can find a full list of flights by clicking on "Which Terminal?" at; some BA flights operate from Gatwick North Terminal.) Thanks to the "open skies" agreement, several new carriers now operate from Heathrow Terminals 3 and 4 to U.S. destinations. You can view flight schedules for all airlines at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports, at the airport operators' Web site,

Heathrow can be avoided altogether, especially for travel between London and Europe. Gatwick, 28 miles, or 45 kilometers, to the south of London, offers a wide range of flights to Europe, North America, Middle East and Asia. Stansted, 34 miles northeast, is mainly a budget airline hub; but New York JFK is served by American Airlines and the all-business-class carrier Eos with daily flights. Luton, 32 miles north, serves more than 30 destinations in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, plus New York Newark, served daily by Silverjet's all-business flights from its private terminal. London City Airport, six miles from Canary Wharf, the exemplary hub for short flights, promises all-business-class flights to New York with BA in 2009.

When traveling between North America, Middle East, Asia, and Europe, it's easy to avoid London by transiting at a hub such as Amsterdam, Frankfurt or Paris. (The opening of a new Air France-KLM Terminal 2E at Paris Charles-de-Gaulle Airport on March 30 should make departures and transfers simpler.)

The Official Airline Guide ( is the most authoritative source of global flight information, showing flight schedules, updated daily, for 1,000 airlines serving 3,000 airports around the world; well worth the annual subscription of €139, or about $208.
Travelers are now hit with a double whammy: restrictions on the size and weight of carry-on baggage forces them to check more bags. For airlines this is an opportunity to impose charges for excess baggage, and many airlines as well are doing away with free baggage allowances.

Traveling light can be heavy going these days. The official carry-on allowance is one standard-sized bag - with a maximum size of 22x17.5x9.85 inches, or 56x45x25 centimeters, including wheels, pockets and handles) - plus one laptop-sized bag, handbag, or briefcase. You may possibly be allowed a third bag in premium cabins. Most airlines impose a maximum bag weight of 51 pounds, or 23 kilograms.

However light you travel, there is no sure-fire way to avoid a hassle with carry-ons. One solution is to stuff everything into a suitcase with detachable briefcase/laptop bag and wheels. But sometimes, taking a lot of stuff is unavoidable. Rather than risk the hassle and nightmare of mishandled or lost bags, consider shipping your bags with a specialized courier service.

BA recommends First Luggage ( which picks up and delivers baggage by FedEx all over the world. The cost for one-way shipping of a suitcase of 66 pounds from Milan to Brussels is about £89, or about $177. Excess Baggage ( ships bags in 300 countries, charging from $4 to $10 per kilogram for most destinations. Excess Baggage has a network of agents that includes Contour USA ( for shipments from the United States. It is also worth checking out the courier services of and, both based in the United States.

Luggage Express ( has courier service across the United States and is extending to cities in South and Central America, the Caribbean and Europe. Prices start at $85 for a 35- to 40-pound suitcase between U.S. cities to $325, with duties and tax, from New York to London.

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