LHR: Designed by Satan himself?
August 20, 2008 4:24 AM   Subscribe

Connecting through London Heathrow: I already know I'm going to have to run, but I'd prefer to run in the right direction.

Despite my begging and pleading with my travel agent, the only flights I could get home next week from Dublin, Ireland to San Francisco, CA connects through LHR. Worse, my layover is a whopping 1h50m, which in LHR-time means I could have teleportation technology at my disposal and still manage to miss my flight.

Since DUB -> LHR is considered domestic and obviously LHR -> SFO is international, I fly into one terminal and out of another. The last (and only) time I did this I was well and truly lost for perhaps half an hour, somehow managed to find out where I was supposed to go, ran there and just barely made it (with a much longer layover). I'd like to avoid that kind of insanity this time, so at least if I miss my connection it's because I honestly didn't have time to get there, not because I wandered around aimlessly.

So any folks experienced in negotiating the hell that is LHR have any tips for me? Is there a faster route between terminals than going outside and walking along the arrival roads (which I remember doing last time)? I'm flying United (god save me) for the LHR -> SFO route, but partner BMI for the first leg, DUB -> LHR.

I tried looking over the LHR website but it's a maze of 3D maps and very general information - I tried using it last time and still couldn't find my way out of the terminal I arrived in without asking some random people for help.
posted by wolftrouble to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total)
Best answer: According to the BAA website, BMI from Dublin arrives in Terminal one, and United to SFO leaves from Terminal one, so no terminal change required. Also, you will not have to go through security at the flight connection centre - only a boarding pass check.
The Dublin flight will arrive in the UK/Irish part. Follow signs to the flight connection centre (up the escalator at the bureau de change). DO NOT go through to the baggage reclaim area. When you get to the flight connection centre, you will have to show your United ticket or boarding pass. Once in the flight connection centre, all you have to do is make sure that you take the correct escalator down to the gate level. If you take the wrong one you end up waiting for a bus to terminal 4/5. 1hr50 should be plenty of time, as long as you don't panic.
posted by Jakey at 4:48 AM on August 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Which terminals are you flying in to and out of? This should be printed somewhere on your itinerary. There are underground walkways that connect all of the terminals--meaning that you shouldn't have to walk outside!--and they're generally quite well sign posted. When you get off the plane, follow the connections signs and then the signs to the appropriate terminal.
posted by lumiere at 4:49 AM on August 20, 2008

Best answer: Jesus, the arrival roads? Mad.

No, all five terminals at LHR are connected by the Underground. Terminals 1, 2 and 3 radiate off a central hub, while Terminals 4 & 5 have their own Underground stations. If you're transferring between any any of terminals 1, 2 or 3, you can simply follow the signs to the right terminal. Walking slowly, this will take you roughly 20 minutes. As Jakey said, if it's BMI > United, your bags should be checked through for you. If in doubt, ask a BMI person to help you as you get off the flight, it's their entire job to make sure you get to your connection.

If it all goes a bit wrong and you find out you have to get from Terminal 1 to Terminal 5 or something odd like that (note, this is very unlikely as different airlines fly from different terminals, so the only reason they'd change it is if your plane broke down and they stuck you in another flight with another airline), don't panic, and ask an airport staff member to take you to the inter-terminal buses. Or go downstairs to the underground/railway station and ask a staff member to help you get to the right terminal - the underground and surface rail trains loop at the end, so there is usually free interchange to the other terminals.

Good luck, and don't panic!
posted by Happy Dave at 5:38 AM on August 20, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks folks. Jakey, I fear what you're saying may be too good to be true, but I just dug through the Heathrow site for awhile and you're right, it does seem to say I'll both arrive and depart from terminal 1. If that's correct, I'm sorry to have wasted all of your time!

That said, thanks also to Happy Dave for the next time I'm stuck going through LHR or if they DON'T arrive & depart from the same terminal. I seem to recall last time walking partway underground and partway along the arrival roads (also dodging pits filled with boiling oil, attack leopards, and poison arrows) but as I say, I was lost - For all I know I went full circle around the entire airport and returned back at the terminal I left (ok, not really, but still). Also, I think you mean "Keep Calm and Carry On". :)

posted by wolftrouble at 6:12 AM on August 20, 2008

Failing that there are shuttle buses and even the tube line connecting the terminals. 1,2 and 3 share a tube station, 4 and 5 have their own stop.
posted by unsliced at 6:45 AM on August 20, 2008

If you're really late tell the security personel that you are going to miss your plane and show your ticket, they'll make you go to a different, much quicker line.
posted by SageLeVoid at 6:51 AM on August 20, 2008

(You know we're having a meetup in SF on the 29th, right? If you're here and available, join us!)
posted by rtha at 7:00 AM on August 20, 2008

you'll be OK
posted by matteo at 7:00 AM on August 20, 2008

for what's its worth, T1 is relative delight at the minute. since BA moved to T5 it's operating at partial capacity, and the handful of times I've been through it in the past few months have been pretty pleasant. YMMV of course.
posted by ascullion at 7:24 AM on August 20, 2008

It's certainly going to be easier connecting from the short flight to the long-haul one, as most of the delays in Heathrow (at least in my experience) are when a number of long-haul flights come in at once and cause gridlock at security. That shouldn't happen when you come in from Dublin; in fact, as others have commented above, you should be able to head straight towards the normal check-in security clearance as soon as you get off the plane.
posted by macdara at 9:26 AM on August 20, 2008

Oh, anyone still reading this should probably have a look at the BAA Travel Between Terminals at Heathrow web page, which has routemaps and best travel options for all terminals.
posted by Happy Dave at 4:05 AM on August 21, 2008

Oh, and the Complete Flight Connections guide is useful too.
posted by Happy Dave at 4:06 AM on August 21, 2008

My first flight ever* connected through Heathrow. After a six-hour jog across an ocean. And I was exhausted, being kept awake only by the skittles I bought at one of Heathrow's convenience stores.

Let me assure you: You'll be fine. Even if you had to go to another terminal, you just follow the purple signs saying "Terminal X, Y, Z" and thereby avoid all but the most basic of security, and, hey, no customs! Sometimes this involves taking a bus, but mainly it's just the purple-signed hallways. If you get lost, there are people paid to stand regularly along this path to make sure no one is too baffled, and to say uplifting things like 'this way, love', which just makes me smile. The only downside of the purple-signed tunnels is that you will feel as though you are going mad. It feels like you're going in circles, as suddenly the sign saying 'terminal 2 and 3' now says '1, 2, 3, 4, 5' and you've apparently entered some terminal you didn't expect. But you will get there, so long as you follow the signs. It's easy-peasy!

*Except for one childhood flight I can barely remember.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 12:26 PM on August 21, 2008

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