While all eyes are on the just-opened Summer Olympics, my attention has also been focused on the athletes’ arrival in London.
In an age where travel disruptions are more often in the news, it was interesting to watch as thousands of athletes’ arrived at Heathrow Airport — many at Terminal 5 — and how smoothly the process went. This got me thinking about my own experiences at Terminal 5 — the main hub for the majority of British Airways’ London-based flights, and my travels with the airline.
I have always been impressed by Terminal 5, which is vast but extremely well organized and easy to navigate, whether you are arriving, departing or connecting to an onward flight. There is very good signage, plenty of staff to direct and screen passengers, and fast frequent transit links to other Heathrow terminals and the city.
Despite a few hiccups since opening in 2008, this is a terminal that works. In 2011, some 26.3-million passengers on 184,616 flights — most of them British Airways flights — passed through Terminal 5 en route to destinations around the world. When travelling, there is nowhere I would rather make connections.
And British Airways has always ranked high on my short-list of preferred airlines. Not only because of their passenger-pampering business class, which I have occasionally experienced, but also because they provide great customer service on the ground and in the air — in all classes of service.
Travellers from Canada — and increasingly those from the United States — seem to be taking note. I don’t have hard numbers on this, only anecdotal evidence, but on all of my recent Toronto to London flights with British Airways, many of my fellow passengers have been Americans. Intrigued to encounter so many Americans flying through Toronto to England or other parts of Europe, I asked why?
Their reasons were varied and included:
— We are going (or returning from) a cruise. Flying British Airways through Toronto to London then onto Barcelona (or another European city) was the best option with the best connection times.
— We like British Airways’ service and found the fares comparable and the routing convenient.
— We are from upstate New York, and it’s easier for us to drive to Toronto and take a direct flight to London rather than make extra connections in the States.
— We found it more convenient to fly Toronto-London-Rome all with British Airways. The connection times are good and they handle your luggage all the way.
— And this from an English family returning home to Newcastle after taking their three children to Disney World in Florida: We saved hundreds of dollars on British Airways flights by flying through Toronto.
For travellers fortunate enough to fly business class, one of the perks is being able to relax in BA’s airport lounges.
Earlier this year I flew overnight from Toronto to London but had a longish layover at Terminal 5 before a connecting flight to Nice. Before take-off, I enjoyed an excellent hot dinner at BA’s lounge at Pearson. Having dinner before boarding means passengers can quickly get comfortable on board, have a drink, convert their seats to comfy lay-flat beds, and settle in for a nice long sleep before touching down.
After disembarking, I went to another bright spacious BA lounge at Terminal 5, had a fresh and tasty breakfast, caught up on some e-mail, and — the absolute best thing after an overnight flight — went to the in-lounge Elemis Travel Spa for a refreshing shower!
The showers are spotless, and cleaned after every use. Towels, shampoo, conditioner and other amenities are provided. In addition, several complimentary 15-minute treatments are also offered including head, foot and hand massages, and facials designed for flyers. An airport layover really really doesn’t get any better than this.
Before I knew it, I was at the gate for my connecting flight. Later that afternoon, I arrived in Nice feeling rejuvenated — well rested, well fed, and, best of all, clean!
There is only one thing wrong with the scenario: I don’t always fly business class, and the British Airways treatment is making me more than a little spoiled.
NEED TO KNOW
British Airways frequently offer good deals for London flights and hotels. Check ba.com periodically for details.