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Caution re: shocking Heathrow transfer between terminals

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JR8
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Caution re: shocking Heathrow transfer between terminals

Postby JR8 » Mon, 31 May 2010 10:02 pm

I just wanted to recount something from our recent relo from SG to Berlin.

The SG gubment being as tight as they are put us on the cheapest flight they could find. That was BA. Due to the strike action/court cases we did not actually know whether we would be leaving SG until a day beforehand... but we are kind of used to this robotic corner cutting from 'the machine'.

Anyway! The shocker was we were booked through from SG to Heathrow and then a connecting flight to Berlin (also BA) on a single itinerary, with one BA booking reference #. BUT, we flew into terminal 3 at Heathrow at 5am, no ground-staff around at all, and then realised we had to collect our bags, enter the UK (immigration etc). Take a GBP15 taxi ride to terminal 5, and check in again from scratch.

The alternative to the taxi was trying to get a free shuttle, while carrrying 5 suitcases = approx 70kg, and missing our connection.

I've never known anything like it. I know almost all BA flights now go from T5, but the transfer from T3 arrrivals (just SG, JoBurg and one other route I think) leave you to your own 5am devices).

We made our connection, just. But we know Heathrow, had sterling cash (taxi wouldn't take cards) etc...

If you have to make a LHR connection, make sure whether you are checked-through, or whether each flight is considered 'point to point'. The agent who booked us obviously had no idea, or they wouldn't have given us a 2hr connection window...

Not the kind of drama you need at 5am after a 13hr flight!

p.s. Also having to pick up bags, enter the UK and re-check in is potentially a 'taxable event' if you are UK non-dom/non-res and watching your days. Having that sprung on you at the last minute could have a serious impact on some people (i.e. to collect your bag and continue your journey, you have to enter the UK and so technically become UK normarily resident., and heres a GBP 100k tax bill..)

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Postby poodlek » Mon, 31 May 2010 10:21 pm

I had the EXACT same problem flying from Toronto to SIN via LHR in March. It was a frakking nightmare, but I made it, although my bags didn't (for another 5 days) because I refused to collect and re-check them since BA wouldn't check them through because of their cabin crew strike...it made no real sense.

To add insult to injury the woman at the Qantas desk (Qantas was operating the codeshare flight from LHR to SIN) proceeded to lecture me in an annoyed and condescending tone about what I *should* have done when I arrived at the gate sweaty and panting 20 minutes before the scheduled departure. Really? I should have checked in online or at my starting point? As if I hadn't tried to do that?

Moral of the story (to reiterate): ALWAYS check to be sure you have more than 2 hours layover time at Heathrow if you need to change terminals.
And it seems that BA is always on strike for some group or another...

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Postby JR8 » Mon, 31 May 2010 10:39 pm

Yes, I don't think I really conveyed what an utter nightmare it was (trying to be polite). It was a total f****** nightmare (can I say that? :? ). Without knowledge of Heathrow, fast informed decisions, and sterling cash on hand... we would have missed the connection and spent half the day waiting for another flight.

The same would of course also apply to QF flights on the BA codeshare.

A salient point being, that from our reservation/itinerary we thought we were simply booked through (as one expects). Indeed we had checked in for the whole itinerary and selected our seats for the whole journey, or so we thought.It was not until we checked in at Changi that the check-in clerk suggested that 'we might, or might not' have to retrieve our own bags and re-check-in in London.

The problem seems to be that not many people realise this problem exists (least of all the SG gubments travel agent!). So if you have an inter-terminal connection at Heathrow, try and find out more how it will work. Being given 'surprise' vague info when you check in will not really help...

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Re: Caution re: shocking Heathrow transfer between terminals

Postby Plavt » Tue, 01 Jun 2010 3:40 am

JR8 wrote:
We made our connection, just. But we know Heathrow, had sterling cash (taxi wouldn't take cards) etc...



Looks like you got unlucky, just done some checking; most will take credit cards but a few don't have the facilities - this is in reference to black cabs, hope you didn't use anybody else there are quite a few touts that hang around Heathrow and are usually well known to the police.

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Postby JR8 » Tue, 01 Jun 2010 6:32 am

Hi Plavt, yes it was a black cab from the official rank. I too was surprised that it did not take cards. We more or less had to throw in our bags ang go... so did not find that our before we were underway. Being told the cab didn't take cards was just another of the 'oh crap, what do we do' moments that morning...

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Postby x9200 » Tue, 01 Jun 2010 8:34 am

JR8 wrote:The problem seems to be that not many people realise this problem exists (least of all the SG gubments travel agent!). So if you have an inter-terminal connection at Heathrow, try and find out more how it will work. Being given 'surprise' vague info when you check in will not really help...

But do you think it was incidental or not? With the frequency the BA staff is on strike it may be a funny question but still if there is nothing special going on and something like may happen and happens sort of regularly then for me it's a no go for this airline. We got transferred flights (BA/QF) to EU destinations through LHT a few times and it was reasonable although for what they did last Christmas/NY it is already enough not to fly with them again. The problem is that we are quickly running out of options. AirFrance, LH, SAS already on the banned list. Fortunately there are still SIA and Thai, a bit pricey but with a proven quality.

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Postby poodlek » Tue, 01 Jun 2010 11:25 am

JR8 wrote:A salient point being, that from our reservation/itinerary we thought we were simply booked through (as one expects). Indeed we had checked in for the whole itinerary and selected our seats for the whole journey, or so we thought.It was not until we checked in at Changi that the check-in clerk suggested that 'we might, or might not' have to retrieve our own bags and re-check-in in London.


I flew BA from Toronto-London. When I tried to do online check-ins for my flights, I was told it was unavailable because of the strike action, and I'd have to do it at the airport...when I got to the airport they said I could only check in for the BA flight, they couldn't do anything about the QF flight from London-Singapore, that I'd have to check in at Heathrow when I got there. I told them there'd be no way I could do it if I had to collect and re-check my bags and they assured my my bags would go right through (they didn't) and I wouldn't have to pick them up.
I was rather worried the whole trip from Toronto-London but every BA person I talked to said I had plenty of time to change terminals and check in. I took the free shuttle which was quick enough, but the line at security was the real problem. Every time I brought up my concern with someone at the airport tho, they said I had no problem, that is until I finally got to my gate and the Qantas lady got irate with me as if I was purposefully causing her headaches because I wasn't checked in yet. I wasn't sure they were even going to allow me to board until about 5 minutes before takeoff...they had just about all the other 500 or so passengers on the 380 before they issued me my boarding pass.
Good thing I brought myself a change of clothes and toiletries in my carry on...I was a sweaty disheveled mess by the end of that transfer.
Next time I'm going the other way round with Cathay Pacific.
Last edited by poodlek on Tue, 01 Jun 2010 12:41 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Postby Plavt » Tue, 01 Jun 2010 12:22 pm

x9200 wrote:But do you think it was incidental or not? With the frequency the BA staff is on strike it may be a funny question but still if there is nothing special going on and something like may happen and happens sort of regularly then for me it's a no go for this airline. We got transferred flights (BA/QF) to EU destinations through LHT a few times and it was reasonable although for what they did last Christmas/NY it is already enough not to fly with them again. The problem is that we are quickly running out of options. AirFrance, LH, SAS already on the banned list. Fortunately there are still SIA and Thai, a bit pricey but with a proven quality.


I think much may have been to do with the time JR8 landed; 5 am in the morning is not the best time to be around Heathrow - fewer cabs, not many free buses running the reason being flights cannot take-off between 23:00 pm and 07:00 am for legal reasons (noise) in Britain.
Last edited by Plavt on Tue, 01 Jun 2010 12:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby missis » Tue, 01 Jun 2010 12:24 pm

What a nightmare...so (dare I say it!) you must be really missing Changi !!

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Postby JR8 » Tue, 01 Jun 2010 3:58 pm

compilation reply:

I don't know if there was any connection with the strike action (the 2nd week of strikes kicked off at midnight the morning after we arrived). That is after all supposedly just the cabin crew union. My first reaction was assuming that they had made the two flights point-to-point, so if we did somehow get stranded at LHR they would not have to feed and accomodate us.

Anyway it came as a surprise, as we had been online on ba.com checking in etc only an hour earlier, and nothing was flagged up about the need for a DIY transfer. When we checked in the clerk rather sheepishly said something about 'we've just heard from London that the bags might or might not be transfered, you might have to recheck them at LHR'. In retrospect as the baggage receipts were only for LHR and not Berlin, the fact was we were not checked through, and he knew it. He suggested we consult ground-staff on arirval but there were none.

Funny, at some of the big airport hubs in the US, you sometimes have to recheck bags, but you do within in the transfer hall. The 15-20 minute taxi ride at LHR, and rechecking in before a perplexed clerk was as I said a first. We had pre-paid for an extra bag from SIN... so on checking in she had to ascertain whether that covered SIN-LHR or right through. Meanwhile tick-tock-tick-tock...

There were probably about ten cabs in the rank. We just leapt into the first one, as one does. It wasn't until we were underway that I thought 'oh crap, how are we going to pay for this'. Luckily the wife had some sterling that she could excavate from her baggage. The cabbie remarked that he didn't know that BA still flew into T3!

Interesting re: the landing hours at LHR. I expect it might be connected that I was surprised to make our approach over north London (as far north as Harrow), continue out to circa Maidenhead, loop back and land coming in from the west! Another first!

There were transfer buses from the transfer hall, from T5 to T3. Which would have been ok if we had have had hand luggage only. Some people apparently did, but not us.

The next alternative to the transfer bus, is, once street-side, to take the free tfr on the Heathrow Express. But...
- It only runs once every 15 minutes, at best
- You can't take baggage trolleys onto the platforms, so you end up impersonating pack-mules to get on.
- the walk from the terminal to the trains can be a very long way.
- If we had have tried this option, I am sure we would have missed our connection (or died of stress).

I also have a kinda embargo on Air France. My wife flew Lufthansa from SIN to Frankfurt earlier this year and said it was attrocious, so that's another one on our no-fly list.

There is something odd about online check-in with QF under the BA codeshare. I forget exactly what it is but recall within the last 3 years flying QF from LHR-SIN and not being able to check-in online, because as I recall QF then only offered it on domestic flights .




missis wrote:What a nightmare...so (dare I say it!) you must be really missing Changi !!
(


Hehehe!

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Postby gravida » Tue, 01 Jun 2010 4:28 pm

Well, December last year I had similar experience with BA and Heathrow.
Not that much terrible as yours, as I didn't have to hire a taxi etc., but still - little bit annoying.
First, when I arrived to Changi I had to queue in for almost 3 hours (sic!) to check-in. Of course, online check-in was not working. OK, it was the last weekend before Christmas, BA was going to strike and so on.
Luckily, I got boarding passes on both flights (to London and later my final destination), but according to the schedule I was going to have like 45 minutes to transfer from one terminal to another, go through the security and board the other plane. While the 'stimulation' on the Heathrow's website suggested around 1.5 hours to do the same route. Since it was not the first time, I thought that I should be able to do it.
Unfortunately, the plane's departure was delayed for around 2 hours, because we've been waiting for the transit passengers from Perth, as the flight was a co-share with Qantas. Finally, we arrived to London behind schedule and it took over 20 minutes to attach the sleeve/ramp to the airplane, as the pilot has informed us, that there were not enough ground staff because of the fact that 5 airplanes landed in the same time. Hello! We are talking about Heathrow, not a minor airport, so why 5 planes are causing a congestion?!
Anyway, I got 30+ minutes to do the whole run from one terminal to the other. I've managed (running non stop) to arrive on time, just when the gate was opened. Well, but my luggage didn't make it. It arrived to my place after 3 days. How lovely it was not to have any clothes to change, not mentioning that part of the Christmas gifts were in the suitcase...

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Postby Plavt » Tue, 01 Jun 2010 4:36 pm

gravida wrote:pilot has informed us, that there were not enough ground staff because of the fact that 5 airplanes landed in the same time. Hello! We are talking about Heathrow, not a minor airport, so why 5 planes are causing a congestion?!


I think there is still a capacity problem at Heathrow, although terminal 3 has been upgraded since I last used it I don't know how much of a difference it makes. The previous government here was going to have another runway built but change of government means that isn't going to happen.

I haven't used Gatwick or Stanstead but from what I have heard they are better airports but then of course the only major airline I am aware of that flies from Singapore to Gatwick is Emirates which of course means changing in Dubai.

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Postby FlyingScotsman » Wed, 09 Jun 2010 5:46 pm

BA are on my no-fly list since they chose to abuse my pregnant daughter. She made the gate with one minute to spare (the girl commented and even showed her the countdown clock) She went through the gate, but was called back as her luggage had been removed ALREADY...as had that of 4 other people who WERE late. They were advised to go to a nearby gate for the next plane where they could board no problem. Sadly, that was the wrong gate for the next plane and they had to walk a considerable distance (7 months pregnant, it was slow going)
My daughter was exhausted when she arrived at the next gate whereupon she was refused a seat on the next plane, as were the other passengers. She (and they)was/were FORCED, RUDELY, to buy another ticket, one-way, full price. Now came the real problem as the banks at home were down so she could not withdraw money..(it was an unhappy coincidence and really bad timing)
They (two BA staff , female - no comment) raised their voices saying PAY NOW MADAM YOU HAVE 5 MINS before we close this flight, (by this time my daughter was on the phone to her partner at home who was trying to calm her down as the stress was really NOT good for the baby) They then threatened it is this flight (NOW) or the last flight tonight, business class, MADAM (it's fully booked only business class seats left-couldn't afford) or first class in the morning MADAM (and sleep on a bench, thanks, but no thanks) could afford that even less..
These women were actually bullying her.
The complaints department inquiry ascertained they claimed to have had no idea my daughter was pregnant (oh, so you happily bully young women travelling alone, just not pregnant ones?). Attempts to reclaim the extorted ticket money have been met with ridicule from the complaints department. My daughter was also booked through LHR T5 and was transferring from one BA flight to another. NEVER NEVER again.
Hey ho...

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Postby wcyou » Thu, 10 Jun 2010 3:57 pm

heng my transfer at heathrow at the past was quite long.. and safe...

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Postby batgirl_cdn » Mon, 14 Jun 2010 6:05 pm

Flyingscotsman, BA is on my no-fly list as well after my luggage didn't arrive for two weeks. They didn't care that they damaged the baby car seat and that the contents of my luggage was moldy and some items destroyed from built up condensation from how it was stored before it got back to me.


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