Those of us fortunate enough to have a higher frequency of travel adventures have discovered specialty travel. We take different trips for a variety of purposes. My recent trip to London filled that criteria.
I am passionate about planes and airports. I was looking for an excuse to head for London to experience the brand new $4B Heathrow Terminal 2 which opened June 4.
After a two-hour SAS flight from Copenhagen, I arrived at London Heathrow's Terminal 3. I took the local red London Bus for free on the Heathrow Ring Road. My destination was the sprawling Renaissance London Heathrow Hotel overlooking one of the two main runways. The hotel's Plane Spotters package included this view as well as two drinks at the bar and daily breakfast. This hotel is now under renovation, adding an additional 50 rooms for a total of 700, with a new restaurant (that has just opened) as well as a new bar. Once completed, the existing rooms are scheduled for refurbishment.
This is a comfortable hotel for one night, about 3 1/2 stars, but the big draw is the view. I watched plane after plane land and taxi well into the night, aircraft from all over the world. I could even see the safety taxiway lights go from red to green and back again, safely directing each aircraft to one of five operational terminals.
The next morning the landings resumed, Air India, Singapore, KLM, Tap, Lufthansa. Many morning arrivals on US carriers such as Delta, United and American came in. On the other side of the terminals, the second runway was feeding flights out with take offs about one every two minutes. The controversy of a potential third runway at Heathrow continues but, in the meantime, the authorities utilize every time slot they can.
At an early time, I was back on the double decker red bus for a brief ride to brand new Heathrow T2, the Queen's Terminal. In fact, Queen Elizabeth II is dedicating the new terminal just as she did the old T2 over 50 years ago. That one had been torn down and rebuilt with this new result.
The building soars in a similar way to T5 which is home to British Airways. T2 builds upon T5's design, attractive with some art, but foremost serving as a functional new home for all the Star Alliance carriers. United was first to move in on June 4, and they were the only tenant when I visited. There is a moving timetable for the other carriers over the next 6 months, and this is triggering movements among all the terminals. It is wise for all Heathrow travelers to check a day or two beforehand to make sure they go to the correct terminal for their flight.
T2 has a main terminal for manned or unmanned check-in, security and some gates in that area with shops and restaurants. There is a large waiting room. Beyond that is the familiar tunnel with moving sidewalks to the satellite concourse which takes about ten to 15 minutes. Here you will find many individual Premium lounges including Lufthansa Senator and Business Lounges and Air Canada's Maple Leaf.
United has both a Global First Lounge and a larger United Club in the satellite near their gates. I saw both lounges and I was impressed. The First product is airy with different mood sections including lounge chairs with privacy curtains, work areas for easy computer use, a glass enclosed formal dining setting with sit down service and private shower areas. There is a large staffed bar and a preset buffet for ready made hot and cold food items. There is also a reproduction of Big Ben.
The United Club has the longest staffed bar at Heathrow Airport, again with lounge and work areas, hot and cold food selections of impressive variety, showers and much original artwork. Both here and in the First lounge, there are plugs everywhere both with British and American current, so that access to power and adapter options are never an issue.
Of course, all that is new sometimes gets mixed with old issues. My 1:35 p.m. flight to Houston/IAH got cancelled, but United responded quickly, as I had my printed itinerary, to reroute me via Chicago/ORD back to LAX. There had been so many delays and changes overnight that UA's computer had thought my trip ended in Houston instead of LA. I always recommend clients print out their air flights and carry that with them. Especially with complicated routings that fail in practice, it can be a time saver for the airline agent and for the traveler.
All in all it was a very productive few days. Personal research like this enables us at TravelStore to constantly improve our knowledge and bring it back to the benefit our clients.