View Full Version : Heathrow angst

29th May 2004, 07:17
Flew into LHR from Sydney yesterday (28th) on QF1. What a total shambles faced us and what a poor impression anyone would get of LHR and the Uk in general.

Congestion at 6.30 am had us parked in some remote location not at a a proper gate.

It took 15 minutes for steps to be made available and another 20 for buses to tun up to take us to arrivals. So 35 minutes after landing before anyone was able to get off.

The BA w***er redcap was like a rabbit in the headlights saying that there were no buses available. The derision poured on his head was superb especially as we were parked adjacent to the BA bus park where there were loads of buses.

What gets me is that its not as though a plane of 300+ people turns up by surprise. we had been on route from Bangkok for nearly 12 hours and landed within one minute of the ETA at take off.

So no steps, no buses what a shambles. The only ones waiting for us were the cleaners. Funny that they knew we were coming and where we were going to be parked.

Thw misery was compounded by the shambles at immigration. Too few immigration officers to deal with alll the passengers.
Why cannot all the immigration desks be in use when it is busy to ensure that there is some service. After all most of the passengers arriving in Term 4 at 6am have been flying for 8+ hours and just want out.

There would be no need for signs saying that the Home Office treats assaults on staff seriously. Better service would all round would keep passengers calm.

LHR is a disgrace, and the airports in the third world counties visited on this trip just add to the shame one faces when arriving at LHR. Everyone, airline staff, public servants behave as if its all too much trouble.

My next big long haul will have me going through a European hub and a UK regional, bye bye LHR.

29th May 2004, 09:45
The BA w***er redcap was like a rabbit in the headlights saying that there were no buses available. The derision poured on his head was superb especially as we were parked adjacent to the BA bus park where there were loads of buses.

Have you ever thought that it might have been a last minute stand change and therefor steps and other equiptment may have been waiting on another stand and it took time to move them over?
Just cos you were parked next to the bus park doesnt mean there was any drivers for the busses, they dont drive themselves!!

Life's too short to whinge, so just get over it.


29th May 2004, 12:26
The cleaning crew made it OK and it is a big deal. Accepting crap too easily means that crap gets offered more and more.

The point is that LHR is getting to be third rate and that in the end is not good for anyone.

Tony Flynn
29th May 2004, 12:40
airports in the third world counties

They'll be the ones oop north then......;)

29th May 2004, 14:26
CrisblThe point is that LHR is getting to be third rate and that in the end is not good for anyone. True. I am not sure if your problems were a BA or a BAA problem.

As far as I can tell about BAA, the only folks with any leverage over them are: 1) Their Shareholders 2) Their customers.

Their shareholders are only interested in profits and their big customers do not want to irriate this monopolist company.

Am I right in thinking that there is no mechanism for BBA to lose LHR, other than by take-over/buy-out??

29th May 2004, 14:38
Am I right in thinking that there is no mechanism for BBA to lose LHR, other than by take-over/buy-out??
No, the Competition Commission http://www.competition-commission.org.uk/ a government quango can investigate and ultimately require a business to be broken up into parts. It has the parliamentary powers to do this.

You can depend on it that MPs and similar, who might be minded to go this way, are treated with kid gloves at Heathrow.

29th May 2004, 15:06
It was probably both a BAA and BA problem with BA handling Qantas.
Anyway, they both stink

29th May 2004, 18:18
Oh it's not just Heathrow. Last year I arrived in AMS off an oceanic to find just two immigration desks handling three full widebody arrivals. And, as often quite usual in AMS, my checked bags didn't make the (90 minute) connection. And this airport regularly gets voted Best Airport ? Three major airports I try to avoid in Europe: AMS, LHR and CDG.

29th May 2004, 20:23
I'm lucky enough to live midway between LHR and BHX. LHR is an utter disgrace and wild horses, offers of Cameron Diaz and baby oil (OK, well perhaps that...) wouldn't get me back there again. Whereas in contrast Birrmigoom is hugely better from a SLF's point of view - and my journey to get there isn't on a $odding M-anything - it's a blast through the uncongested heart of England!

And even the security folk are pleasant at BHX!

Final 3 Greens
29th May 2004, 20:23

Lesson one: a stand is where an aeroplane parks or is moored, a gate is where you enter or leave the terminal, so you were sent to a remote stand and then coached to a gate. So it was a proper stand and you entered LHR by a proper gate - gettit? So if you are going to abuse ground staff, please at least get the terminology right.

Knowing a little about LHR and stand planning, the basic problem is that there are too few stands for the movements at peak times.

Add in some time bound restrictions about certain T4 stands and the early morning arrival times can be awful.

The redcap is left to sort it all out and it is often well beyond their control. They are not w*nkers, they are professional people trying to do a difficult job under difficult circumstances when confronted by disrespectful :mad: like you, whose attitude is reprehensible.

You may have travelled 8+ hours, but your ticket price does not include the right to abuse the redcaps or any staff.

BA are well aware of the problem and do their best - they plan and manage stands/gates in T1 and T4 - but the fact is that LHR is creaking at the seams.

Will it be better with T5? Well 3 years ago the thinking was that there would still be remote stands.

The obvious solution is to close LHR and develop STN properly, sending the locos to Manston or Alconbury, but I doubt that the political will exists to do that, so you better get used to the service - at least the cost per Km that you pay these days is a fraction of the price paid 30 years ago.

By all means try the Euro hub/regional connection routing, but don't whinge when you miss your connection or get bumped because a premium pax took your seat.

I flew BA from LHR/ATH/LHR this week, two more consistent quality professional flights - well done to all.

29th May 2004, 20:36
Sounds like little has changed at LHR since I was based there in the 1970s!!

How an earth are they going to cope when two A380s arrive at the same time!

30th May 2004, 06:49
Don't worry , they'll have a plan..... which will be 10 years away from completion!!!

30th May 2004, 09:09
Have to agree with chrisbl and those supporting his gripes. I avoid LHR if at all possible.


Getting a little bit pedantic aren't we?

Whilst not condoning abuse of any staff, I can understand that frustration WILL cause passengers to be less than perfectly polite and those employees 'at the sharp end' must expect to face a certain amount of intolerance at avoidable delays.

The possible changes to stands/gates/whatever does not explain the delays in immigration either.

Why should it not be acceptable to complain, provided it is not done in an abusive way? Under the circumstances I would have thought an amount of sarcasm might be expected.

30th May 2004, 10:50
I think the disappointing thing here (I'm speaking as a LHR regular who actually doesn't find the place too bad at all) is that the several posters above who appear to be LHR staff show no interest at all in what is a very serious issue where whole planeloads of their customers get left on board in a disorganised manner. Would you do that if someone came to visit you in your house, tell them to stay sitting in their car outside for more than half an hour as you weren't ready yet ?

And perhaps that's the whole problem. There is no concern from the staff. And that's why nothing gets done. There are plenty of airports with proportionately less facilities and less money available than Heathrow who manage things better.

Possibly an answer is to have multiple handling agents so contracts can be awarded by the airlines. And no automatic transfer of staff between them when contracts change, so you know if you lose your customers' business you are out on your ear. Just like the rest of us in the real world.


...and then coached to a gate.... please at least get the terminology right.

If we are being pedantic I would have thought a standing-only vehicle with very few seats was definitely a Bus and never a Coach ! Or has BAA Marketing Dept struck again and rebranded them all ?

30th May 2004, 11:19
LHR clearly has its' problems, and if they fail to address them, then people who post on this forum will unltimately vote with their feet and go elsewhere: Since the people who post on this forum tend to be exactly the kind of travellers that airlines and airports most need, BAA should be concerned, although nobody would be very surprised if they didn't see it that way.:rolleyes:

The Immigration service, for sure, doesn't give a damn one way or another what anybody thinks about it, and so will never change.
The BA w***er redcap was like a rabbit in the headlights saying that there were no buses available. The derision poured on his head was superb especially as we were parked adjacent to the BA bus park where there were loads of buses
I can understand that frustration WILL cause passengers to be less than perfectly polite and those employees 'at the sharp end' must expect to face a certain amount of intolerance at avoidable delays
Just a thought, but I always feel that complaints should be best directed at those who have the actual responsibility for the problem. Since the redcap does not control stand allocation, nor the availability of coaches for coaching stands, pouring derision on him seems a little pointless, like complaining to a taxi driver about the traffic. Surely a strongly worded letter of complaint (pointing out your own commercial/financial value) to customer relations would be a more appropriate response? Sadly, employees at the sharp end do expect a certain amount of intolerance - but that doesn't make it alright.

Final 3 Greens
30th May 2004, 14:06

I have re-read notice that you say that there was no one to meet you at 06h30, but QF001 is scheduled to arrive at 06h45.

Let's assume that you landed at 06h20 and then taxiing to stand took 10 minutes - your flight arrived 25 minutes early at LHR.

Tt is not surprising that there may have been a stand change as a result, since not all T4 stands can be used first thing in the morning and this is a maxed out time of day for arrivals, with all the US traffic arriving too.

There also may have been a medical emergency on another flight, resulting in a last minute stand change and such an event always gets priority.

In some ways, I am surprised that you were not held on a taxi way, an experience I have had in the past year at AMS, CDG and FRA.


"...would have thought a standing-only vehicle with very few seats was definitely a Bus and never a Coach !"

It's known as coaching in BA.

"And perhaps that's the whole problem. There is no concern from the staff. And that's why nothing gets done. "

You are quite wrong in this context, since the problem is insoluble by the staff.

I have studied the whole stand/gate problem at T1/4, in fact I managed a project on it a few years ago and it is basically insoluble until T5 comes on line, which mercifully is getting nearer every week. But even T5 will require remote coaching. Presently, there is simply not enough infrastructure to cope at peak times. If you compare LHR with LAX for example, the latter has a lot more physical space, for less movements at peak hours.

LHR is a throwback to the days of DC7s, Stratocruisers and travel as a privilege for the rich and was scaled as such. Presently, the facilities cannot cope at peak times, despite the addition of various extra infrastructure over the years. The LHR space is pretty compact for a major international airport.


"Why should it not be acceptable to complain, provided it is not done in an abusive way?"

We have a different definition of abuse obviously, since I find "The BA w***er redcap" to be highly abusive.

As Tightslot has pointed out, the redcap is not responsible for allocating stands or coaching, there is little point complaining to them.

By all means write a strong letter of complaint to BA.

PS: For the avoidance of doubt, I do not work in the airline indsutry, nor do I work at LHR.

30th May 2004, 18:53
LHR does have its problems, this is evident by their ever ongoing quest to expand.

I agree that the thread poster's experience was the pits, this wasn't a last minute change due to unforseen circumstances, it happens all the time.

I don't agree with the abuse meeted on the "redcap", this poor sod was fronting an incompetent management, leave him alone...

LHR is unavoidable for many Pax, due to its connections.

31st May 2004, 07:44
You realise all this would end if the curfew ended. Too many flights having to hold/orbit for the airport to open.

It happens in Sydney, Brisbane, you name it.

31st May 2004, 09:11

"We have a different definition of abuse obviously, since I find "The BA w***er redcap" to be highly abusive. "

I agree that if those words were used directly to the individual concerned they would be most abusive, but I do not think that chrisbl stated that he actually did so at the time, merely on his post here.

"By all means write a strong letter of complaint to BA."

I quite agree, but such letters have a habit of going unanswered or at best are full of excuses and 'weasel words'.

Finally, I repeat what I said earlier, I do not condone verbal abuse. (It can lead to 'a smack in the mouth' in return, which not only offends, it hurts!)

Final 3 Greens
31st May 2004, 15:28
such letters have a habit of going unanswered

A trend that I see getting worse as the trade off between cost and service favours cost.

1st Jun 2004, 16:10
So why do we carry on using LHR, despite all its long-term flaws? There are some wonderful benefits from the service there. Like almost a shuttle service to JFK. Like the choice of half a dozen different ways of getting to Australia every evening, depending on how early or late in the evening would be good for Sir, and by which route? (And that's just from T4.)

Every good thing in life comes with a downside. Only being humans, we like to moan about the things that we don't like, and skate over the things that are good for us. Does anyone really think that airlines like to make their customers miserable when everyone knows there are other choices around?

2nd Jun 2004, 18:40
You should all listen to Final 3 Greens,

BA are a super company to fly with or be in their care be it only on the ground, but we all love taking a dig at the BIG guy!
Have you all had your heads in the sand lately or something cos your all moaning without merit.... BA are more than aware of the problems with Heathrow, thats why not long ago a huge amount of the longhaul flights departed from the less congested and in my opinion, more passenger friendly Gatwick...BUT NO....The majority of you insist on flying into congested heathrow so when it came to cost cutting it was an obviously easy decision for BA to concentrate its 747's and thus majority of its longhaul services back to LHR!!!
But like I said, BA are aware of the congestion...hence the terminal switch recently and to all you moaners...YES that big shiny looking thing going up at the end of the airfield is infact a brand new terminal 5 for BA and yes it will solve most of the problems....But be patient guys!!!!
Or you could just all turn your minds and agree that LGW is a good place to fly to and see if things get moved back!!!

4th Jun 2004, 08:22
Flew in from Nairobi with BA earlier this week and ended up on a remote stand and had to be bussed (BA can call it coaching all they like, it's still a bus) to the terminal. OK these things happen, we understand that. But after a long day, I was desperately hoping to catch an early bus home from the coach station (see how these things get complicated?). Being on a remote stand more or less ruined my chances and came as a nasty surprise. If someone had bothered to tell us that we'd be bussed in, I would have had time to rethink and to face getting home an hour later. But no one told us, so I got a nice surprise when the doors opened and we all had to walk downstairs. It's only a little thing, but good customer services would have thought to tell us what was going on.

With LHR the way it is, things like this will always happen, but if poeple would give full and timely explanations it would help.

To continue I readjusted my expectations and hoped to make the next bus (one every forty minutes or so) but there was a queue at immigration and my bag took a while to come (these things happen). Despite everything, I made it to the Coach station at T2 fifteen minutes before the next bus. Would you believe it, there was only one person selling tickets and a line stretching well out of the door? Took over fifteen minutes to get my ticket and missed another bus - though the nice man selling tickets (wasn't his fault) still gave me a ticket for the bus that we could both see driving out of the station as he printed my ticket.

What bothered me was that while only one person was selling tickets, there was someone else doing admin at one of the desks and abusing anyone who tried to talk to her (yes, she was being very rude to the paying public) and plenty of other people wandering around with coffee cups in the hands doing Important-Things.

The whole experience wasn't good. Took two over two hours from landing to getting on a bus (then the M25 and M3). The airline/airport side of things wasn't great but it's a busy airport and these things happen. But National Express were really dreadful.

If I could avoid LHR I would, but until someone starts up a Bournemouth Nairobi or Southampton Yaounde route, it looks like I'm stuck with it!

4th Jun 2004, 20:25
Just to add my six-pence worth;-

T3 - it doesn't take much will-power or shareholders money to replace carpet with brown tape all over it and replace the damaged/missing ceiling tiles.

T4 (BA) - Could the BA flight crew stop the pretence and feigned surprise everytime I arrive from USA. It's always:-

- taxy off runway and stop. FD announcement "There seems to be a lot of traffic this morning and we need to wait a while before taxiing to T4".

- taxy to 27L/09R and stop. FD announcement "Unfortunately the south runway is in use this morning and we need to wait a while before crossing the runway.

- cross runway and stop. FD announcement "Sorry ladies and gentlemen but there's a lot of aircraft arriving at T4 this morning and we need to wait a while before taxiing to our gate".

- taxy forward to near T4 and stop. FD announcement "It won't be long now before we park but we're waiting for another aircraft to vacate our gate".

- taxy to remote stand. FD announcement "..... etc. etc.

I won't bore you with the details but it follows the lines of waiting for buses / steps etc.

I've heard this so many times now that I actually start laughing when they go through this routine. I never slag off the crew though as, personnally, I've always had reasonable service from BA.

In short, LHR is a national disgrace but there's not a lot that we can do about it so I don't shorten my life-span getting angry and and upset about it. I just admire the prettiest crew member from afar and enjoy the whole experience !


Wot No Engines
4th Jun 2004, 23:29
Ok, so T5 will solve the problem (although not completely by the sounds of it), however, reviewing schedules could help !!!

Given that almost all long haul arrive between 6 and 7am, why not look to delay the depatures of some of them. and spread the load over another couple of hours.

Arriving slightly later helps with sleep and reduces jet-lag for me anyway. However, my preference is to arrive late afternoon or early evening on any long haul if possible. Everyone I speak to agrees, so why don't the airlines try to accomodate. This is not just a BA/LHR problem.

Pax Vobiscum
5th Jun 2004, 07:30
I don't know (I only sit in the back), but I strongly suspect that many travellers do want to get into LHR at dawn in order to catch onward connections so that they arrive at their ultimate destinations in time to get some useful hours at the office. LHR is so busy in large part because of the tremendous range of connecting flights available.

I'm sure that BA spend a lot of time and money researching the needs of their pax and don't time all those flights to arrive early morning for the hell of it! That having been said, it's no excuse for not having the resources to handle the flood of arrivals in a timely manner.

6th Jun 2004, 04:18
Wot No Engines... couldn't agree more, but unfortunately it's not that simple.

One of the major problems are curfews at the majority of airports - usual 2300-0600. Scheduling aircraft from this side of the world to Europe is difficult.

So that I can arrive in London (from Australia) in the evening I overnight in say KUL or SIN en route and take the morning flight originating out of there which gets me into London at a more convenient time. (It's obvious that I cannot fly with QANTAS because of this).

Another problem is feeder aircraft connections at the originating port and destination of the international flight. It's no good an aircraft leaving SYD at say 0700 half empty because passengers can't connect from provincial cities.... or arrive at London when all the European connections (that have ticketing arrangements with other carriers) have already departed.

I opt to overnight, but younger people on tighter budgets may not be able to afford the time or money... and airlines don't wish to put barriers up to stop passengers using their services by forcing them to overnight.

There are other considerations too.

I trust this offers some explanation.

As I said before - eliminate the curfews and the major problem would be solved. We all know that this is not possible.

6th Jun 2004, 22:14
Of course the one thing that would eliminate all this is geographical airport usage:

Flights to/from West - LHR
Flights to/from South - LGW
Flights to from North / East - STN

All Airlines using London airports should finance a high-speed link between the three airports.

Not only would this eliminate the problems you experience currently, it would put an end to the "stacking" problems over London skies!

Politically sensitive though, so they won't buy it!

7th Jun 2004, 12:09
Interesting point bealine. I must say that I do find it very amusing that the anti-noise pollution lobby 'out rule' the anti-fuel pollution lobby, so that we get lots of big birds burning gas on hold and then standing on the tarmac with two engines ticking over - whilst they wait for a stand. :rolleyes:

The people who want the long hauls to arrive in LHR early are the the biz pax and they call the tune. I have ranted before about this problem on the long North/South routes such as my regular to JNB. Flights arrive in the morning but leave in the evening, so the aircraft and crew wait on the ground for some 10 hours longer than they need to. Guess who pays?

7th Jun 2004, 14:54
Not sure about this Paxboy, but could it have something to do with crew hours and not having to slip crews at London if the same crew take the aircraft back to JNB? Saves costs.

7th Jun 2004, 20:07
I don't think so. When I first did the route, as a child in the 60s (Eeek, that sounds like a long time ago ... :ugh: ) the a/c did a daylight return. In June 1971, I did a daylight trip with BOAC Super VC-10 JNB~LHR.

SABENA used to do an immediate turn, as they could save the extra stand time. Particularly if the a/c has to be towed out to a remote stand and then back etc. So the SABENA was out overnight and arrive at about 06:30 and then off at about 09:00.

VS on the CPT route, which they run in the southern summer as a tourist route, will turn immediately. This is also out night and daylight return and I have used that service. BA, on the same route, always stops in CPT for the day, as they do in JNB. VS considers the JNB route one of it's prime biz routes and always return the following night.

As I recall, Swiss Air used to go out at night and daylight back but I see that Swiss are now running their MD-11s with the daytime stop over as well.

Last example, SAA arrive here at 06:25 and are towed out for the day and then towed back for a 20:00-ish departure.
(end of rant)

8th Jun 2004, 08:38

KLM fly out of Europe AM and then the aircraft comes straight back after about 2 hours in JNB.

To me this has a number of probs.

1. The trip out “costs” a working day. For a lot of pax their employers (who are paying for the flight) prefer them to have a bad night sleep on an aircraft and then go sright to work. The trip back gets in about mid day. Again this uses up a big part of a working day, particularly if there is a connecting flight to follow the long haul one. Business pax on average pay the most for their flights. Employers prefer their staff to spend nights on aircraft not working days.

2. If the day flight is down to JNB there is the problem of a late arrival is SA. This may be OK with the locals but with the safety situation most visitors prefer to arrive in daylight. If the day flight is to Europe the problem is getting in in time to make connecting flights with a civilised departure from JNB.

9th Jun 2004, 04:44
BAA website for Terminal 4 shows no less than 20 arrivals and 5 departures between 5 Am and 7 AM on T4 alone. Now under the circumstances an occasional 25 min delay (esp for a flight which reached early) is not too great.

I really canot understand why if you can automatically allow for an extra hour driving down the M1 from Milton Keynes to London between 8 aM and 10 Am, the same provision cant be built into your schedules when you are landing into a crowded LHR at peak time in the morning (which for T4 is early rnorning with jumbo loads of trans continental flights arriving!).

Yes LHR immigration is not too great, but then they arent too bad either. When I landed on a Sunday evening (same case as our friend who posted the original thread - we reached 15 min early and held for 20 min on the ground before we got a stand), the immigration officer in charge at T3 was making visible efforts to get more counters manned .

Coming to my flight, the one difference was that while we were waiting for a gate at T3, the flight deck did make a clear announcement for the reason for the delay and that went a long way in improving things, esp when most of us could see the aircraft which was holding us up (I think it was Iran Air) finally leaving the gate.

Now this is an area where I feel the travel agents as well as airline reservation staff can play a part. Why do they book passengers into incredibly tight connections- Yes the COMPUTER says 1 hour but the passenger might be perfectly willing to reach the connecting airport two hours earlier to ensure that he/she does not miss that crucial long haul connection ! The price of automation - increasing no of robots manning the screens!

9th Jun 2004, 14:09
xyz_pilot. Yep, this is not a problem for me - I was just trying to put some more info into the reason for all the flights arriving at LHR in the first 90 mins of the day (apart from the obvious curfew). I am well aware that Biz pax set the agenda. When I am biz pax, I am more than happy about that. ;)

KLM to JNB are probably doing the daylight return, if their route has become more of a tourist one and they want to lower prices.

I agree with rsoman that allowing 60/90 mins for connection at LHR at that time of the day is not sensible. People still seem to think that a/c will arrive on time and that the jet-way will kiss the door at exactly the time on the itinerary. :rolleyes:

For LHR and other Europeans hubs, the removal of the curfew would fix the problem and remove some pollution. But, as we know, LHR is in both the Right and Wrong place! The airport has been 'fudged' by politicians since it's inception and there is no political will to fix the problem. Nominally, move the airport or move the people that live around it.

"I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you any different." Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Dick Fisher
12th Jun 2004, 14:29
As a punter living within an hour of three (emptyish) local airports - EGBB, EGNX and EGCC, I am glad that I don't have to experience too often, the pain that is Heathrow.

But despite their relative emptiness, these smaller regionals have their problems too.

It seems to Mrs F and I that every time we fly in to Birmingham, it comes as a bit of a surprise to them! "Oh bu**er! Another plane's turned up. Where on earth shall we put it?"

Then an inevitable delay while parking is found, steps are located, a bus is found and so it goes on.

Just smile though, and know that inside fifteen/twenty minutes, we'll be outside the terminal and heading for home. Rather better than the London experience methinks.