How long does it currently take to clear customs at Heathrow? I am carrying my bag on, and will not be declaring anything. Just trying to time the National Express for Gatwick and then on to Ireland. Thanks!
In my experience, if you don't quite make your Gatwick bus you can probably get on the next one with no problem. You can also get on an earlier one if you get to the bus center sooner than you expect. Just make your best guess about which time to choose, but know that it's usually not a problem to take a different one if necessary.
After you've gone through passport control (Immigation) and picked up your luggage, you leave through one of two doors: Red or Green. If you have nothing to declare, then just pass through the Green Line and that is all there is. Before you land, your flight attendants will have given you a form to fill in along with a list of goods that you either cannot import or goods that you need to declare at customs. If you have anything on that list of prohibited or other items, go through the red line. Every time that I have entered the UK through Heathrow, I have not been stopped by Customs officers. However, even if you go through the green line, they reserve the right to stop you and examine your luggage. If you do not need to stop at customs, then the only time you need to factor in is the time it takes to walk from your aircraft to Gatwick connector. Given the enormous size of the airport, getting anywhere in LHR can be quite a journey!
The big delay at Customs is not on baggage pickup, it's on clearing the first passport check. I've had it take me up to 90 minutes before, but I've also been through in 15, depends on when you arrive and how many other planes there are with you.
I got a seat at the front of the plane so when we landed I was one of the first out, I hate having to wait in line at customs, a warning though I had a very long trek from the landing gate to customs, probably the longest I've ever seen, I arrived around 11am and had only a couple people ahead of me and was out before my luggage was.
A lot of this depends on which terminal you are arriving at. Terminal 3 is by far the worst. If you hold a passport issued outside of the EU then the queues at passport control can be enormous. A couple of weeks ago I flew in to T3 on a Saturday night from India and the queue for the non-European passport holders was well in excess of 2 hours. I'm sorry, T3 just isn't good enough and that's it - in fact it's a disgrace. T4 is much quicker - usually 40 minutes. After that all you have to do is head to the luggage carousel and pray to whatever Gods protect you that your luggage will arrive. It only takes a few minutes to clear customs, even if you have to open your bags ( unless you've been very silly ).
It's about time someone did something about Heathrow and it's 'Couldn't care less - let 'em queue' attitude. We're supposed to be hosting the Olympics in 2012.
I agree with Al. T3 is always the worst (United flies into this terminal). At Heathrow, the length of the line really depends on what other planes have arrived just ahead of you. If there are a bunch of 747s that have just come in from non-EU countries, it can be a long wait. However, sometimes, you can get through very quickly.