Due to BA shifting one of our flights, we now have a 7 hour layover at Heathrow December. We've only ever flown through Gatwick, so I'm not familiar with LHR at all. Assuming that we have met all UK Covid protocols (since we have no way of knowing what those will be in December, but we will all be fully vaccinated), what are the options for something quick to do with that layover. I'd really like to avoid sitting in the airport for 7 hours, but I'd prefer that to missing our flight if there isn't anything doable in that time frame. I know that you can find options online, but I find that this forum gives a more realistic view of what is actually possible.
What is your destination? You might need to stay “airside” at Heathrow to meet the entry requirements for your destination country. Some are now imposing restrictions on travelers coming from the UK—-which could include you if you leave the secure transit area of the airport.
Of course things could change by December, for the better, or for the worse.
I don't think it would be worthwhile to leave the airport for any sightseeing if that's what you're asking about. Theoretically you could take the Heathrow Express to Paddington and back, but you'd have little time in London and much time in security lines and getting to your departure gate. I spent much of an 8-hour layover at Terminal 5 in one of the lounges with food, quiet, and comfortable seating. Some appear to be closed now but others are open. Heathrow is a very big place with multiple terminals. Especially if your itinerary requires changing terminals, I'd recommend staying at the airport.
Just to add on to what Lola is saying, if you leave the terminal you will be required (by current Covid protocols) to quarantine and test before going back into the terminal.
We're in the same boat...and hope to do a little bit of "sightseeing" within the terminal in a few weeks!
@Lola - this is on our flight home to Seattle, so our destination is the US.
Given the nature of international security lines, the general tenor of these first two responses was my assumption, but I thought it would be worth checking in with others who have experienced it.
Also...I love how this is a completely Western Washington thread so far! :D
I'm from the other Washington. Does that count?
If the situation at the time of your trip is such that leaving the terminal doesn't activate any burdensome requirements, I wonder about a quick trip by taxi over to Windsor? Folks on the forum have mentioned that the town has a nice historic area, and you can walk over to Eton in 15 to 20 minutes. I haven't been there myself, but I know Windsor's quite close to Heathrow. Although there's bus service, it would be foolish to pinch pennies in this case. Google Maps is estimating about 25 minutes by car from Terminal 5; it could be different from another terminal. I have no idea about the traffic-congestion risk, which could vary by day of week or even time of day.
Maybe this would be something to scope out ahead of time, just in case you decide you have a lovely day and enough time. The way things are going, it's probably not all that likely that you'll end up with the currently-scheduled 7-hour layover. It might be 3 hours (leaving you with no decision) or 9 hours.
Cary, at the risk of introducing a non-Western-WA element to your thread, we were looking at a 7-hour layover next month, before our Denver>Heathrow flight got cancelled by BA this week. The plan had been to check in to the Yotel micro hotel inside the airport, for a nap and/or an alternative to sitting in a plastic chair in the terminal that whole time. Unfortunately, although Gatwick still has its Yotel, the one at Heathrow was shut down. So we were just going to live with the long layover, plastic chairs and all.
Do you want to stroll the terminal? Or find a way to pay for entry to the spa or a flight lounge, if possible?
Years ago, with a longer layover, I went to the air conditioned movie theater in nearby Crowley, and saw back-to/back films. Wouldn’t try that now.
@Cyn - that's a great idea - especially when the layover is after the overnight flight from the US! Thankfully this one will be after we've been in France for a week, so we'll actually be relatively well-rested - though we'll be toast by the time we get back to Seattle.
I'm quite sure we'll be strolling the terminal for sure!
@acraven - very true about the timing. This is the third alteration we've gotten from BA - though this is the first time we've had a flight canceled. The others were just seat changes. But we have four months til the trip, so there is plenty of time for more shifts - I'm doing my best to keep my mind flexible. We're coming home four days before any of us have to be at work/school partially to account for whatever weird changes happen.
There a very nice Sofitel at Terminal 5 , restaurants etc. But then you would be leaving “air side.”
OK! So on your way back to the US, you may have the option of leaving the airport, if UK rules permit. If so, Windsor might be a good option. We once spent the night there before our flight home to Seattle, and found it a nice place to wander along the Thames, see the castle from the outside, and have a decent meal.
I am curious about your flight change, if you don’t mind. Are you flying to Seattle? If so, I assume they cancelled BA 53 and put you on BA 49, the later flight?
@Lola - yes...that is the flight change that happened. We were hoping to get home earlier. We have a flight from CDG at 7 AM. If I knew that we were going to be on the afternoon flight from LHR we could have spent some time doing something in Paris instead of getting up at 0-dark-thirty to get to CDG for a 7 AM flight to London!
What the rules will be in December, nobody knows.
What I have done in the past--not at Heathrow but other airports with a long layover--is buy a day pass to one of the airport lounges. You get free food, free bar, wifi, more comfortable seating, and a generally calmer atmosphere that the main terminal. Most lounges are airside. It just depends on which terminal you are in and if you need to change terminals for your connection.
Check to see if your airline offers day passes or look at this website:
Oh, if you are flying business or first class, airline lounge access is included in your ticket.
Things can change before your trip. Numerous times!
Pre Covid, I always allowed an hour to get off the plane and through the airport. This will probably now be longer. What are you going to do with your luggage? Pre Covid, for flights to the States, the requirements were to check in 3 hours before the flight. This won’t have become any shorter. You therefore have a maximum of 3 hours available.
Traffic in Windsor is hideous so you will be lucky if you can do the trip in 30 minutes each way by taxi. It will give you enough time for lunch, but not to go into the castle.
@Frank - that you for that idea. I had never thought of that - we generally fly direct, so I haven't had many layovers - certainly not 7 hour layovers! I just looked into it at Terminal 5 and it looks reasonable enough. I'll wait until we are closer to the trip since I'm sure BA will change things again. But if not, we'll mostly likely do this.
Frank and the others have the right of it - no one knows what December's rules will be. Pre-COVID, with 7 hrs, I might have bobbed into town with a specific destination in mind. These days, with only 7 hours, I wouldnt dream of it.
If its me, I would look into what lounges are available (and are planning to be available). Also, be prepared for your chosen lounge to potentially close if there is another lockdown/serious outbreak. Lounges worldwide are only starting to reopen. You can track which lounges are open online.
If you dont have airline status or credit card access to get you in, you can try apps like Lounge Buddy, or a day pass from Priority Pass.
Shortly prior to COVID, we also had a 7 hour layover at Heathrow, Terminal 5 I believe. It was miserable even without COVID issues. Very crowded, nothing we were interested in seeing, and even limited places to sit. They did have some high end shops, but we don't care for airport shopping of any kind so that's not much of an inducement for us. We ended up leaning against each other across an armrest for 7 hours trying to catch the odd minute of sleep before the second leg. My wife declared Terminal 5 to be a branch office of hell. Personally, I rather like Gatwick. But even at that an airport terminal isn't the sort of place I would be unless it were required.
Having said that, if you leave the terminal you have to go through Customs and Immigration, which in addition to being a PITA also takes an unpredictable period of time. On returning you have to go through Security which can also take a bit of time.
If you want to go somewhere there's nothing you would wish to see within an hour of Heathrow. So that's two hours of expensive airport taxi or Heathrow Express going and coming to and from someplace that wasn't important enough to include in your vacation to begin with. Which may not be an entirely bad thing as you're not going to have much time to be there anyway.
Your experience may be difference, but I'm a worrier about being on time for flights, don't really trust that there wouldn't be some difficulty with transportation going and coming and getting through security with any facility, and basically just can't imagine any scenario where I cold be personally convinced leaving the air side a good idea.
Although I'd be very unlikely to leave an airport in the middle of a trip (I'd be more likely to look for a hotel room where I could crash), it's really not accurate that there's nowhere worthwhile within an hour of Heathrow. Windsor is less than 10 miles away. Plenty of people mention WIndsor as a possible day-trip from London, which is a 25-33 mile trip each way, depending on the route you take.