Sunday, March 04, 2007

Welcome to Britain

I know I had a whinge about Heathrow on my way out to the USA but I'm afraid I am going to have another one now. Arriving back this morning at Terminal 3 virtually all the escalators were not working, it was disgustingly dirty and dimly lit. What a way to welcome tourists to Britain. BAA should be ashamed of themselves.

UPDATE 6.34pm I hope someone from BAA will read the comments on this thread. It's rare to find unanimity on this blog, but this thread certainly has.

86 comments:

Nigel Sedgwick said...

Heathrow Terminal 1 has its problems too.

Coming back from Stuttgart on Thursday, it seems the baggage handlers forgot to unload the baggage from a flight from Stockholm.

It took them a while to notice, and then (if I remember correctly) they blamed a computer.

Obviously taking careful note of the dodgy computer problem, they then did the same thing with the Stuttgart flight.

I could not help thinking that perhaps a few airlines should club together and build an airport near London not run by BAA.

Best regards

Nigel Sedgwick said...

Sorry, that was Friday (just in case it matters).

Best regards

judith said...

Try using Stanstead.

TORY COMMENTATOR said...

The Main Issue is:-

Many like myself are ashamed to be British!

Andy D said...

I had the same issues with coming back from JFK after a week in New York last week. JFK was wonderfully clean, looked great with tons of seating. Heathrow was awful. Dim dingy and not very pleasant at all. It was however 10 times busier which I think has something to do with it.

Cato, author of toryheaven.blogspot.com said...

At least the Sunday Telegraph is full of good news concerning the injunction. I was particularly warmed to see that very few interviews remain before the police are expect to present their file to the DPP. I do hope the PM hasn't made any summer holiday plans yet, as Her Majesty's pleasure may be that he resides elsewhere.

Rob said...

The baggage carrosel place is the worst! But I was so glad to be back home I didn't notice how crap it was to be honest!

Rob.. again said...

Seems as though they heard you complaining...

http://news.opodo.co.uk/articles/2007-02-15/18062801-Heathrow-Terminal.php

kris said...

maybe it is an immigrant thing, but I am always relieved to get back to blighty and have a cup of tea!

Welcome home.

The Remittance Man said...

As a Brit resident abroad I always experience a certain sense of joy at arriving back in Blighty. Usually this happens after I have managed to get out of Heathrow Hell, though.

Part of the problem is the place has grow 'organically' since the fifties and thus is a complete mess organisationally (of course having been a nationalised institution for most of its life didn't help with 'joined up growth' either).

Not that this excuses the surly staff, lack of cleanliness, and general air of decrepitude that seems to prevail.

Border Reiver said...

The BAA are not interested in what passengers arriving at Heathrow think. They are simply interested in getting passengers to spend money on their way out of the country. The BAA don't run airports they run giant out of town shopping malls. Their primaary focus is increasing the footfall through their airports, airlines are only important in that they're the reason people travel through their airports.

Try taking a look at what the BAA are doing in Edinburgh. Seeking massive expansion so that they can build more shops.

Almost everyone in an executive position on the BAA board now, and for many years, has had a seniorposition in retailing prior to joining the BAA.

CityUnslicker said...

Iain,

this moan should be addressed to Madrid as BAA are now owned by the Spanish company Ferrovial. All teh management left on take-over last year.

I wonder how committed Ferrovial are to makig the reception for tourists a good experience in Britian?

Ed Clarke said...

Heathrow has been very unwelcoming for a long time. BAA say they want to redevelop all the terminals once T5 is up and running.

The problem is that T5 was delayed so heavily by our stupid planning system.

Fred said...

I prefer a dimly lit environment to awful bright strip lighting.

Jeremy Jacobs said...

Judith

"Essex airport" you're joking of course!

Jeremy Jacobs said...

Near where I used to live is Manston Airport. Third longest runway in the UK and the closest to Western Europe.

Various failed attempts to get it off the ground over the years, if you excuse the pun.

Anonymous said...

But surely it is important that we give the correct impression to the visitors - that this is a market economy which does thing for the least amount of money to get the maximum amount of profit. It will help them to adjust to the shittiness of the train service, in the same way as BA and BAA privatised by those lovely Tories...

tonemcd said...

I came back from Oz on Friday, and had the dubious pleasure of coming in through Heathrow. Two things came to mind;

1. Why do I have to queue up with all the other EU-serfs to get into my own country? I want a line that says UK passports, Australia has one...
2. I had to take my belt and my sunglasses off to go through the xray machine. What's with that? How long is it going to be before we all have to dress up in paper suits to go on a plane?

Three things actually - the place was filthy.

Anonymous said...

Most airports are flash and sparkling with governments using them to show how great the rest of the country is. Heathrow fits the bill perfectly

Anonymous said...

While you were away Fran Maude and boy George managed to say the exact opposite yet again.Happy returns!

Anonymous said...

There are slightly more important things going on at the moment than the state of Heathrow Airport...

Anonymous said...

I bet that there was nobody to shout at you if you stepped out of line. I bet that the immigration officer was polite to you. And you didn't have to be fingerprinted.

Arriving in the UK is always a pleasure compared to arriving in the US.

Anonymous said...

Oberver/Guardian letters today. A carve up worthy of Private Eye

Anonymous said...

Con.Home is saying McCain feels deceived by Dave-join the club!

raincoaster said...

Airports can be extraordinarily Orwellian spaces, and nowhere is that more evident than in the Arrivals offloading areas. After all, they've got your money by then; what are you going to do, turn around and go home at that point? You put up with it and they learn to abuse you. Good call, posting it to the blog.

uk-events said...

>Arriving back this morning at Terminal 3 virtually all the escalators were not working, it was disgustingly dirty and dimly lit. What a way to welcome tourists to Britain

Sounds like an accurate representation of this awful country to be honest.

All you needed was someone issuing you with more taxes, telling you what to say and a few chavs then it could be a festival of modern Britain.

Anonymous said...

My understanding is that Terminal 5 opens in March 2008 and will be the size of Hyde Park. Almost all BA flights will depart and arrive from there, so anyone flying to the US will have a much better experience.

Also, Terminals 1, 2 and the Queen's Building (the oldest parts of Heathrow) will be demolished and replaced by Heathrow East, which will be built to the same standard as T5. The planning application is currently being processed and could be built as soon as 2012.

Terminal 3 is getting a massive facelift and refit over the course of the next two years.

It takes time, but Heathrow will not look the same in 5 years time.

Colin Campbell said...

Having travelled a lot, I can say that arriving at Heathrow was one of the more depressing locations to be stuck in. Up there with those passenger friendly spots like Manila, Jakarta and Mumbai.

no longer anonymous said...

Maybe it's to deter illegal immigrants?

Anonymous said...

The real irony of the Maude/Osbourne debacle is that its over a policy that looks old tory (recognise marriage) but is merely an extension of failed Nulab, nanny state, interventionist mumbo. when a debate on supporting stable environment for children involves same-sex relationships (hardly material to the success r failure of the policy) and the rights of newly single parents say if one dies, should indicate its a daft policy.

you wont beat nulab at their own game. we want an alternative not moreof the same

Anonymous said...

Anon 12.19
Spot on!

Anonymous said...

And on teh radio the news headlines were

1) Govt to launch plan to get people back into work - by getting charities and industry involved

2)Migrant workers are the victims of abuse- and are to be given a a police hotline so they can anonymously report abuse by UK citizens

At least you know nothing has changed. item 1) is the same as Tory policy so nuking camerons idiotic policy announcements and item 2 is a further erosion of our civil liberties, using racial tension (if its true) to achieve it.

They forget to mention that maybe why 1 million are unemployed is that we have 2m migrant workers in teh country - i dont care which policy you choose but its idiotic to have both. Oh and cheap labour might increase the number of people on welfare support - and the minimum wage was supposed to apply to the lowest paid to help them out of poverty not to drag more people into the welfare net and act as a job gtee and advert for Europes low paid.

The greatest chancellor of our time would either fail O'level economics or more likely get a double first in Implementing Marxist Theory by Stealth

If we are accepting more of Europes citizens shouldnt our net payment decrease and Polands decrease

Anonymous said...

Harriet Harmen now suggesting a Family Tsar! Because its not right they should grow up in a home where all teh cash comes from benefits!!! You couldnt make it up.

So we have childrens minister, culture minister, family minister thought minister......

And where are cameron and teh team pointing out these lies???

Ellee said...

Stansted is superb, I've never had a problem there. London and Gatwick are both grubby in comparison.

judith said...

Jeremy, Stanstead is an Essex airport, I'm an Essex girl, we both give great value!

Anonymous said...

Time to take action;

I am considering the following changes to my lifestyle;

i)outing myself as a single, homosexual, unemployed person looking to adopt a child

ii)Declaring that i used to believe in socialism

iii)who came to England seeking asylum from racial and religious persection by a foreign country

iv) that sending me back might infringe my human rights and risk torture

I will be quids in

Richard Stirzaker said...

Likewise, I flew into Terminal 4 this week. I saw threadbare carpets held together with strips of duct tape. A broken escalator. Faulty lights. Those stupid signs from the Home Office at the passport control saying "we take assaults on our staff seriously", just in case visitors from abroad think assault is matter of comedy. The staff all looked scruffy, their fluo yellow jackets and bibs dirty. And my favourite, in the baggage hall, an orange bucket on the floor catching dripping water from the ceiling.

I came back from Bangkok, where the airport is spotless, an army of cleaners was at work. I'd lick the floor there and the air was jasmin scented.

Terminal 5 can't come soon enough but there's no point having a glass and steel temple if it's managed by people who don't care.

Anonymous said...

"TORY COMMENTATOR said...
Many like myself are ashamed to be British!"

Ant we're ashamed that you're British, too!

raincoaster said...

At Christmas, the security staff at Ottawa airport were wearing Santa hats or Reindeer Antlers. It does sort of lower the intimidation factor, but they looked quite spiffy and festive. Still, they gave me a stern lecture about my aromatherapy spray being over the 100 ml limit.

Trumpeter Lanfried said...

I have a friend who was born and bred in London but has lived in the USA for many years. She flew into Heathrow to find the lifts out of order. Her immediate comment: "Only in this country!"

verity said...

I'm sure the illegal Pakistani first cousin-brides from back home find it comfortable and just like home.

Countries which have strict border controls in place have better airports. Singapore is even better than Bangkok. For one thing, if you were just dropped in there and someone said, "OK. Guess where you are." You would say, "The lobby of a luxury hotel?"

It's beautiful. And they have free first run movies. Little rooms you can book for a nap. And, get this, swimming pools for the weary traveller.

Anonymous said...

Arrived into T3 on Thursday morning, looking forward to beating the Passport queue as I had previously signed up for 'Iris Scan'.
So went straight to Iris Scan to find it 'OUT OF ORDER'.

Anonymous said...

Heathrow is now managed from Spain, no wonder they don't care what impression it gives to visitors, or that it is the worst organised airport in the world.

dearieme said...

You can always use Schipol and then a quick hop to Stansted.

Ed Clarke said...

Heathrow is now managed from Spain, no wonder they don't care what impression it gives to visitors, or that it is the worst organised airport in the world.

If you think it ran beautifully a few months ago before Ferrovial bought it then I don't know which terminal you have been using!

Iain, how about some coverage of the NHS doctor placement fiasco?

Anonymous said...

ed clarke-Too dangerous!.Isn't that a bit close to a policy issue?
PS-remember what happened to Maude!

Anonymous said...

I know its tricky from a legal perspective but can someone please explain to me why the press is not full of calls for resignations and disgrace, untenable etc?

It is not a party political point any longer. labour supporters must see the damage being done to their party and to the system of government.For teh sake of what is only a few months surely it is better for some responsible government, it would be more of a legacy to take the responsible course of action and be vindicated later than be part of this shambles.

Anonymous said...

Why doesnt an MP with a marginal seat just resign? Local and Scottish elections are fine to a point but the real thing would surely end this nonsense.

Ed Clarke said...

Anon 3.20:

That's what it feels like. I know it's too early for DC to put his cards on the table, but this is a serious issue that need questions asked of the Health Secretary.

Doctors are sitting there watching their careers go to the wall and the big guns are talking about "family". Important as "family" policy is, it's not exactly an emergency which needs covering today.

PJ said...

I've an idea that might make arrivals considerably more pleasant. What about putting immigration officials on the plane to process passengers there so they don't have to stand in long queues to get to baggage reclaim? Also, if you're on an eight hour flight, you wouldn't need so many, so it might be cheaper.

Adam said...

You should try Newark; it's the best airport for flying into NYC in many ways (despite being in New Joisey) but man, it's a scumhole, overcrowded and hard to get out of in a car even if you know the way. Not to mention that your experience queueing with Virgin on the way out would be a blessing at Newark; I've waited three hours to check in at the Virgin desk there.

barnacle_bill said...

I quite agree with Iain and many of the others on here regarding Heathrow Hell.
I have to do it every three weeks. It is either a cultural shock coming back from wherever. Or a relief to see it disappearing out of sight.
Unfortunately it represents the decline we have experienced in this country under Zanu-NuLabor.

Geoff said...

The problem is that BAA prefers to think of itself as a shopping mall operator - hence arrivals is like coming in through the back door of a mall. No money to be made here all you want to do is rush home.
I mentioned to afriend that flying into Heathrow from Dubai is like entering a 3rd world country his comment was it still looks good when flying in from Cairo so I guess BAA can leave it for a few more years.

Andrew said...

Just trying waiting for a wheelchair for 10 minutes in the cold, badly lit, grotty gate at terminal 3. (It was for my beloved.) Heathrow is a pit compared to nice new international terminal at Logan we went through to get back to London.

Anonymous said...

Heathrow is a grubby shithole because of all the scum that passes through it.

In the 50s only nice people flew, now we have entire airlines devoted to flying ASBO scum around the world.

Ted said...

Last time I got back to T3 we "de-planed" and then trudging through some dingy corriidor were met by locked doors. Attempts to get someone to unlock them so we could enter the terminal proper failed - a couple of large blokes at the front managed to break the locks, setting off alarms, and we marched through. No sign of anyone responding to the alarms,

tonemcd said...

Anon @ 3:21pm

"It is not a party political point any longer. labour supporters must see the damage being done to their party and to the system of government.For teh sake of what is only a few months surely it is better for some responsible government, it would be more of a legacy to take the responsible course of action and be vindicated later than be part of this shambles."

Why on earth would anyone care about the Labour party? I for one want their evil Socialist party destroyed - all Socialism is is one group telling another group how they should run their lives. It's had it's day, it killed 100 million and enslaved 2 billion, time to let it die. Actually time to thrust a stake through it's heart and burn the corpse.

And yet they still cling on, suggesting a 'Family Tsar' - yet more intrusion into people's lives.

kris said...

I much prefer Newark than JFK! JFK is by FAR a bigger hell-hole than Heathrow!

Senex said...

All you soft southerners should consider re-location: Flights from Manchester or Leeds are usually comfortable and cheap.

I doubt I shall ever use Heathrow or Gatwick again, it would be pure masochism - if masochism can be pure.

Yak40 said...

A friend who has lived abroad too told me that when he enters the UK he feels like he's now entering a third world country.

Anonymous said...

I too saw the orange bucket to catch the drops of water from the ceiling in T4 earlier this week.

Why is Heathrow so crap, a grimy Arndale Centre with planes parked out the back.

hg said...

What a devastating set of comments, after such a post as well. The main airport of the United Kingdom is a rundown, inefficient, dirty,possibly dangerous, incompetently run disaster, unanimously.

My letters are woobps.

Norfolk Blogger said...

I can't complain about UK airports compared to US ones.

In Auguest we went to Mexico, via Houston, and Hoston had 4 emigration staff to deal with four 777 jets arriving within 10 minutes of each other. We caught our connecting flight only because we pleaded to "queue jump" because we were goin on our honeymoon. If you can't get through immigration in 2 hours and 45 minutes, then there is something seriously wrong.

And on the way back we had 2 hours for our connecting flight. We got through immigration in an hour, but then had to line up again for 30 minutes for security checks, then were expected to queue again to get an exit ticket so wer could leave America, the tickets could only be got from termianls and you had to queue for 40 minutes at each terminal. Again, we pleaded with someone (an Office of Homeland Security Official) who accepted that our bags would ahev to be offloaded and all we needed was a ticket, so he did a quick search of our hand luggage and let us go withou the usual formalities.

Absurd pointless and time consuming, and in most cases with no smiles, no apologies and no explanation.

If I never have to go to America again, it will be too soon.

Yak40 said...

Norfolk Blogger
Must have caught them on a bad day tho' TSA can be full of themselves. Their staff turnover is very high.
I have never had any trouble at any US airport and certainly have never experienced the rudeness many mention.
The rudest airports for me in 30+ years of travel, were Halifax, Nova Scotia and Sydney, Oz.

Iain Dale said...

Nich, that does indeed sound an horrendous experience. Washington, however, was excellent. I had to wait 10 minutes to clear immigration. And when I checked in it took 5 minutes. And the airport was clean.

bgprior said...

Businesses that "think of themselves" as something other than what their customers want quickly go out of business, provided that their customers have alternatives. The problem is not that BAA have a retail focus - it's probably a good thing if they run as profitably as possible, and I doubt that long queues, overcrowding and other unpleasant experiences do anything for their retails sales - but that there is very little alternative to flying from a BAA airport in many parts of the country, particularly the South-East. Another example of a botched government sale, where maximising the value of the shares was allowed to override the creation of a competitive market.

Chris said...

Terminal 4 was as bad on Tuesday. We taxied for nearly 30 minutes and then had a 20-25 minute walk to passport control. Only 1 of the 5 moving walkways was working and once we got through the queue at passport control the escalator to bagge reclaim wasn't working either. The time in the air from Basel was less than the time on the ground. Thank goodness I only had hand luggage otherwise I might still be there.

ian said...

Surely the private sector would bring an improvement to these airports. Privatise them now, I say.

Casual Observer said...

BAA Heathrow have been paying off their more experienced hands by dressing up this cost-cutting initiative as 'early retirement' so they could replace them with cheaper people undr the guidance of incredibly young 'managers'. Is is any wonder Heathrow doesn't work any more?

Casual Observer said...

"Yak40 a dit...
A friend who has lived abroad too told me that when he enters the UK he feels like he's now entering a third world country."

How true, how true...

Adam said...

You were lucky, Iain. I travel in and out of the US a fair bit and I should say that at least half of the time the delays for immigration are at an hour to two hours. This has also been the experience of people coming to visit me (although the one that came via Dulles found, as you did, that it was fine).

verity said...

Absolutely no probs at DFW. Everything's fast and courteous.

Adam said...

Fareed Zakaria is about my favourite conservative/libertarian pundit. He wrote an article (that I blogged on a while back) about the effects of tighter immigration security (link at bottom if I am allowed to link) that's pretty interesting.

Over here, you hear a lot of Americans complain about the increased security and the burden it places on them flying and it's a lot less onerous on them than it can be for us filthy foreigners. When it comes to getting world-renowned experts in scientific fields from, say, India to come to a conference here, you can often just forget about it.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17201007/site/newsweek/

Astro-Turf Lawnmower said...

Agree that Stansted is a great airport, no problems there.

BUT...

Then you get on the Stansted so-called "Express". Overcrowding means most have to stand, swaying in to each other as the ancient train crawls at walking pace through some awful parts of London.

Welcome to Britain.

Anonymous said...

Half the time it doesn't matter how long you have to queue for immigration at Heathrow, as you'll still have to hang around waiting for your bags to arrive. Could alqays be an elaborate form of avoiding overcrowding at the carousels, but that would probably be assuming too much in the way of organisation.

Rush-is-Right said...

UK-Events has it spot on. But Thief-row is by no means on its own in this regard. Returning via Luton a little while ago a plane load of arriving passengers were waiting for the immigration staff to come off their break before anybody could get out of the place. Just pathetic, but you have to admit it gives visitors a perfect preparation for the rest of their trip.

Welcome to Britain. The land where nothing works except the surveillance cameras and confiscatory taxes.

raincoaster said...

If you REALLY want to spend the rest of your life waiting for immigration officials to finish with you, show up at the American border speaking perfect American English and present documents that show you weren't born in North America. They kept me at the Peace Arch crossing for two hours, and I was only going to the bloody mall. But I suppose hiring stupid people was part of the government outreach?

Wasn't it Houston who deported Boris Johnson to Madrid? I think it was. And them being right-wingers, too! Shocking!

Vlad the Impala said...

Raincoaster - Boris was refused, as I recall, the right to fly into the US for a stopover en route to Mexico as he was born in NY but travelling on a UK passport. If you want to do that, you need documentation from the US saying you gave up your citizenship.

I think the UK and US are on a par as far as foreign passport control, but Heathrow loses by a wide margin when it comes to baggage handling. On a flight from Vancouver, we waited 90 minutes. The taxi company dispatcher explained that arrivals at mid-afternoon are frequently caught in the tea break triangle...

Will do anything to avoid using Heathrow.

By the way, Iain, if you fly on one of the new all-business services (about the same prices as BA kennel class) you can avoid Heathrow altogether.

raincoaster said...

Actually, he really was detained deported to Madrid, having already landed in Texas (always a last resort, if you ask me) and intending to merely make his connecting flight. Tried, at no-doubt considerable volume, erudition and length, to revoke American citizenship then and there, only to be told to put it in writing. I put the link on his blog, but you know how it is: I'm willing to bet he hasn't done it yet.

Now I can't remember if this is the same flight the BA flight attendant wanted to move him away from the children, on the off-chance he might have been a pedophile. They apparently have a rule against men sitting next to children. He was allowed to stay only because they kicked up a fuss and told her that this was their father.

I mean, one look should have told her that.

Vlad the Impala said...

Hi Raincoaster -- in that case, he might have an even more interesting time the next time he goes transatlantic...I think I must have misread his original Spectator post and thought the issue was he wasn't allowed to board at Heathrow (how he even got to the check-in desk at a time when the queues were backed up to Belgium inside Terminal 4 was worthy effort on its own). Most of the people I know who travel frequently are now scouting for flights on an "anywhere but Heathrow" basis. Don't know if Stanstead/Luton any better, however.

Anonymous said...

"My understanding is that Terminal 5 opens in March 2008 and will be the size of Hyde Park. Almost all BA flights will depart and arrive from there, so anyone flying to the US will have a much better experience.

Also, Terminals 1, 2 and the Queen's Building (the oldest parts of Heathrow) will be demolished and replaced by Heathrow East, which will be built to the same standard as T5. The planning application is currently being processed and could be built as soon as 2012.

Terminal 3 is getting a massive facelift and refit over the course of the next two years.

It takes time, but Heathrow will not look the same in 5 years time. "

I am from BAA and can vouch for this. The main problem is getting planning consent for these changes. Many locals fear we will use these improvements to piggy-back a doubling of flight numbers on them. Not true at all!

Sorry about the inconvience you've all suffered - we're working on it!

DanG said...

Heathrow is a Third World airport, run by the Third World for the Third World. What else would you expect it to be like?

Roger Thornhill said...

I spotted the puff from BA PR Central. "built by 2012".

If we hired the team from HK we could create an entirely new airport by then in the Thames estuary and covnert Heathrow to housing (hurrah!).

T3 has BEEN renovated and it STILL looks a grey, oppressive, dim, scruffy provincial hole.

Airports should wow. Britain's airport should give the impression that you are entering a technologically advanced, energetic, creative and above all law-abiding and civilised nation. Make people live up to high expectations. Arrive at T3 and people immediately think they can begin a 419 scam, sell crap on eBay, and run an illegal cab service using a stolen uninsured Toyota 1.6 as a means of "blending in".

word verification: BaaRtwatz

Anonymous said...

"Many locals fear we will use these improvements to piggy-back a doubling of flight numbers on them. Not true at all!"

Ah. An official denial. It must be true then.

Anonymous said...

I think it's a good introduction to the rest of London. Rude, impatient people, staff who's eyes light up with glee when they get to say "NO!", surly locals and frazzled tourists. Smelly, dirty and grey.

At least people arriving in the place are prepared for the worst, and might therefore end up getting a few nice surprises during their stay.

MikeF said...

Heathrow has never been my real problem on arriving in Britain - it's trying to get anywhere from it on public transport that is bad.

Last year, I flew in from Japan, and I got trapped on an Underground train for two hours. Then the trains were running late. It ended up taking nearly as long to get from Heathrow arrivals to Nottingham as it did to get from Tokyo to Heathrow.