Heathrow revisited

The new self check-in may be daunting to some using it for the fist time, but there are plenty of BA staff on hand to help.

WE FLEW to Heathrow as guests of British Airways and were seated in their World Traveller P class cabin. This cabin is between business and economy classes and has only six seats abreast and more leg space. The food is World Traveller (economy) but the extra leg room and more comfortable seating makes a big difference to a flight without breaking the bank. There was an excellent selection of newspapers and magazines, and having an individual screen to watch films ensures uninterrupted viewing if other passengers are milling around. There was also never a queue for the bathrooms, which is always a pleasure. The headsets are also business-class quality and very comfortable. The cabin crew were ever so efficient, courteous, chatty and friendly. We left and arrived on time and, because of the two-hour time difference, arrived in England at a reasonable time with the rest of the day ahead of us. After all the controversy and problems with the opening of Terminal 5, it seems the teething problems are over and, apart from the rather long bus journey from the plane to the terminal, everything went smoothly. The terminal is extremely well organized, directions are clearly marked (only in English), passport control efficient with very little waiting despite quite a few flights arriving simultaneously. Plenty of trolleys are available and the luggage carousels easily identified on the large monitor at the entrance to the baggage claim area. As is usual in airports, VIP lounges are situated in the departure lounges where passengers can relax before their flights, and Terminal 5 is no exception. In addition to this, British Airways have an Arrivals VIP lounge where passengers can have a drink, snack or full meal and even a shower, massage or other treatment or just relax in the aromatherapy room upon arrival. How nice to be able to arrive refreshed to a business meeting, meet friends or even spend a day shopping after a long flight. The many shops, restaurants, bars and coffee shops in the arrival and departure areas offer the traveler having to spend a few hours in the terminal plenty to do. There is adequate seating ensuring a comfortable wait if you are meeting someone or seeing someone off. The whole area is light and airy. The new self check-in may be daunting to some using it for the fist time, but there are plenty of BA staff on hand to help. In fact, all through the terminal there are customer service stands with staff ready to help. Once through security, where, once again, there was a very short queue despite the number of departing passengers, everything went like clockwork, with the personnel polite and apologizing for making people take off their shoes and coats, all done with humor. Once through security, there are again plenty of top brand-name shops, restaurants including Gordon Ramsey's new Plane Food restaurant with views over the airfield, and duty-free shopping galore. There are three departure areas, A, B and C. Allow yourself plenty of time to reach these. Three VIP lounges, known as Galleries, are in the departure area. The Concorde Room can accommodate up to 156 of the airline's first class customers and invited guests with a restaurant, a discreet boardroom for meetings and a concierge desk organizing anything from taxis to theater tickets to flight arrangements. The Galleries First Lounge with 542 seats is for first-class customers and Gold Executive Club members. There is a fully stocked self-service bar or waiter service. Wired PCs are available across the lounge with free Internet access. A customer service desk is available for arranging or amending flights and to handle general queries. The Galleries Club Lounge North and South is open to Club World, Club Executive, Club Europe, Gold and Silver Executive Club members. These lounges boast a self-service bar of drinks and fine wines, Internet access and a separate children's play area. In addition to these lounges, there are two large Elemis Travel Spas where first-class and club-class and Club World members can shower and be revived or relaxed by a choice of 15-minute complimentary spa treatments. Terminal 5 is vast and elegant, and the shops and restaurants beautifully appointed. There is plenty to do if you have a long transit waiting time. If not, give yourself plenty of time to browse or shop before boarding your flight. One word of advice: Wear comfortable shoes as no matter what you choose to do, there is plenty of walking involved. - L.L. The writer was a guest of British Airways the The Bath Board of Tourism