Travelling to Paris (mostly) in Style Part 2: Sojourn at Terminal 5

Terminal 5 at Heathrow is still one of the better terminals I’ve used in my sporadic world travel. Light & airy, fairly good signage and a damn sight better than the old Terminal 3. I’ll see the new Terminal 3 on my return from Bilbao in 2 weeks’ time and will be interested to see how it compares.

A benefit of arriving at T5 from a UK domestic flight is that, once you’ve had your boarding pass checked, you walk straight into the terminal. No need for another security check and all the hassle that entails.

Last time I came through T5 in March, my change in frequent flyer status hadn’t been completed, despite BA’s assurances that it would be, so I wasn’t able to use the lounge, so this is my first time in many years that I could use it. There are lounges at either end of the terminal but I went to the south end; a good choice as it turned out, since it overlooks the southern runway which was being used by planes taking off towards the west and so was a good vantage point for some impromptu plane watching. We had in fact landed on the same runway a short time before, so the daily switch to alleviate noise for those living under the flight paths had already taken place.

The lounge is extensive and has plenty of seating but was nevertheless pretty busy. I’m reliably informed that the food on offer in the lounge isn’t what it used to be, so was intrigued to see what was on the menu. I could have had pasta, curry, chilli or a baked potato but started with a coffee and then moved onto a bowl of tomato, potato & paprika soup – which wasn’t bad at all. I then had a couple of small glasses of a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, which went down very well. It was while sipping the wine and watching planes take off that I finally started to relax. Admittedly, this may have been due to the alcohol.

All too soon, it was time to leave the lounge and head to the departure gate, which was (predictably) at the other end of the terminal. This time, all the boarding was at the front but I was able to use the fast track boarding. BA Club Europe is essentially the normal 6 abreast Airbus 321 seating but with the middle seat of each 3 used for a demountable side table. It works quite well but is probably not worth paying too much for – on this occasion, the difference in cost for the upgrade to Club while booking had been quite easy to justify!

The aircraft was held at the terminal gate after final boarding for about 20 minutes as advised from the flight deck; this is a function of the very frequent congestion at Heathrow. The wait is improved by being able to use mobile phones etc now. Finally, we started taxiing alongside the southern runway, past construction works to repair parts of the main taxiway, before queuing to join the runway.

Take-off was to the west and over Basingstoke with Gatwick visible far below us after a few minutes. Afternoon tea consisted of sandwiches and a scone with clotted cream & jam. I washed this down with more Sauvignon Blanc … from Chile this time!

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