A month ago, this blog advised you to "Avoid Heathrow," based on a stream of news reports and reader stories about long lines, missed connections, and lost luggage. Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) investigated many of the problems at Heathrow. Here are the key points:
1) "British Airways, the world's second-largest airline in international passenger traffic, mishandled 28 bags per 1,000 passengers in the second quarter this year, a rate that is twice as bad as the worst U.S. major airline, US Airways."
2) A government rule to prevent terrorism is partly to blame. "In August 2006, British authorities limited carry-on baggage to one piece -- period. The rest of the world lets travelers take two bags on board planes, usually one suitcase and one personal bag, like a briefcase or purse. That increased the volume of checked baggage on British Airways by about 15%. Added volume strained a system already overtaxed."
3) The airport has faulty equipment. "The Heathrow baggage system physically failed 10 times during May and June, including power failures and breakdowns in a tunnel of conveyor belts that move bags between British Airways buildings, Terminal 1 and Terminal 4."
4) Good news: Things should get better on March 27, when Terminal 5 opens, vastly increasing British Airway's capacity to handle luggage.
Two readers of BudgetTravel.com have shared the following thoughts about Heathrow:
i flew into and out of heathrow this past may. many travellers weren't prepared for the limit of one carry-on. you are forced to check your extra carry-on that must be checked at the carriers terminal on the otherside of customs. i stood in the customs line listening to many people saying they will or already missed there connections.--Nancy Shuster
We flew in and out of Heathrow coming and going to Athens. We were on BA and changing planes in London. Herded into small spaces for long waits after 11 hour flight. Then had to wait in general area until they posted the gate for our next flight. They only require 30 minutes before flight time for posting, but also advise to allow 45 minutes to get to some gates. I will avoid Heathrow in the future.--Ruthe Small