A trip to London took me through Heathrow Terminal 5, which consumed 19 years and $6.5 billion (the Beijing airport’s Terminal 3 took 4 years to build, cost about half as much, and is larger than all five terminals at Heathrow… combined; see A Tale of Two Terminals for more). What’s Terminal 5 like? Spacious, anyway. What can you do there? The answer seems to be “the same things that you could do at Terminals 1-4″, e.g., the shops are more or less the same, with less variety in restaurants (though each one occupies a lot more space).
Let’s say that you’re stuck at LHR waiting for a delayed connection (or in one of the three-hour queues for immigration that have become common; see forthcoming blog post about that). What would you most like to do? Plug in your laptop and connect to the Internet? Do you feel that the $400-1000 in fees and taxes that you paid bundled into your economy transatlantic airfare, which include landing fees and per-passenger service charges paid to the privately-owned Heathrow Airport, should entitle you to an electric outlet and a WiFi connection? If so, you’ll be disappointed. There are no power outlets and WiFi requires an additional complicated purchase process and payment of amounts additional to what you already paid as part of your ticket.
How about the restrooms? There are no paper towel dispensers. A quick survey of one restroom found 6 out of 8 electric hand dryers were operational. All of the escalators and nearly all of the elevators seemed to be working.
On a Monday morning the lines for security were insignificant, there were no full body X-ray scanners, and passengers were not asked to remove shoes.