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Old Dec 1, 07, 8:24 am   #1
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T5 Trial Day - First Thoughts

I'm surprised the wires aren't buzzing on Flyertalk with news and reports of T5 after the trial today. Maybe it's a bit early

I'm anticipating others will be able to post much more comprehensive reports on the Terminal, but I thought I'd throw a few morsels in in the meantime.

- It is a magnificent building, although not much more than a slightly posher version of Stansted. Light and airy, with some good views through most of it. An entire wall of check-in desks as you can imagine, although I expected more self-service machines.

- Security was a shambles. My item of hand luggage got stuck inside the seemingly smaller scanner, and it took the surly (as always) staff well over 15 mins to actually sort it out. "Use a stick to push it through," one of them said. Very high-tech. No apologies, no smiles, same old queues, and no Fast Track at first glance. The tray-returning system was rather clever, though.

- Lounges appear to not be near completion, I saw one of the planned 5 Swarovski chandeliers upstairs which certainly looked the part. The main lounge pavillion is located on the upper floor at the Southern end of the Terminal, with another single Lounge at the Northern end (the domestic gates).

- In places, you could easily be in Bluewater, somewhat predictably, BAA have every intention of milking the retail aspect as much as possible. Most of the shops were still boarded up, but I imagine the shopping experience will be quite good, if that's your thing.

- Some gates had a seperate boarding line with a clear notice reading "Fastrack Boarding". Was initially rather excited at the thought, BA at last restoring one much-appreciated benefit for Premium customers. I asked the boarding gate staff whether this would be a permanent fixture;

"Perhaps. It will depend on the flight, where it's going, how many passengers there are, etc" - Quite poor I think.

- Didn't see a transfer / connections desk, so couldn't comment on that side of operations.

- The baggage hall is impressive. Although how all of BA's flights will be accomodated by just 11 carousels intrigues me. Plenty of upwards space however, and all in all a good welcome to London, but only after you've toiled through passport control, which was another throng of queueing people. I'm not sure whether or not there will be enough space/staff to accomodate so many arriving passengers. And the IRIS machine wasn't working..

- As you enter the main Arrivals Hall, quite a long runout area makes for a nice exit, with a very long railing for those meeting arrivals. Certainly a vast improvement on the setup at T4.

I imagine the transport links, convenience for the M25, the containerised baggage system and the terminal's position between the runways will be the main notable benefits. But I hope BA and BAA will really read the comments from the forms they gave everyone and improve things for opening in March, but if not, this does seem like a wasted opportunity on some levels. Enhanced customer experience? Business as usual for a large part.

Looking forward to hearing what other people thought!
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Old Dec 1, 07, 9:21 am   #2
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quick initial thoughts - yes it's airy in the check in area but becomes more claustrophobic once you get to the gates.

Very long bridges out to the aircraft, although at least they have full height windows.

Security is going to be a big problem if they can't sort out the gremlins they experienced today.

Check in smooth but then there were only a fraction of the normal expected traffic plus they seem to "encourage" everyone to use SSCI which not all will be familiar with (and then you still need to drop off bags anyway). I didn't get the feel of flowing through from check in to bag drop to security but maybe that was just the check in area where I was.

Prepare for a lot of trekking around, many long corridors to get to gates and also on arrival

I'll put more on later
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Old Dec 1, 07, 9:26 am   #3
  
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Nice write up Chris.
I was supposed to go, I got a phone call from them a couple of weeks ago saying they would send me details but they never tunred up.


My thoguhts....

When you sau THE IRIS I do hope there is more than 1
11 baggage belts doesn't sound much at all. What do they have now? I think 4 in T1 8 in T4 a couple of domestic in T1. Of course we have to add those up and take 20%-30% off for BAA maintenance.
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Old Dec 1, 07, 9:39 am   #4
  
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Our version of today's trial wasn't quite so smooth...

Not quite sure what happened - but I got the distinct impression that just about everything went wrong. We drew Glasgow, and therefore got to try out all the biometric stuff.

At the first checkpoint it took them about six tries of me standing there staring into space with my fingers on the pad to get a good picture. Must both the fingerprints and face picture be read at the same instant? I hope not!

Went through Southern security today, and they were x-raying everyone's shoes, but only one chair was provided for people putting them back on again...

After security I was intending to sneak a look at the "northern" lounge area when partner "accidentally" got on the main "down" escalator. Once down there we could find absolutely no way back up (other than a Gladiatorial contra-escalator sprint!)

Inside, none of the departure boards were working in the terminal at all - thank god our gate number was printed on our BPs or we would have been well-and-truly stuffed. Luckily no gate change.

Still nothing in the way of shops or things to do, so all the sheep were amazingly lined up at the gate about 60 minutes before departure.

The biometric checks at boarding time went much better than at sampling time - but as soon as we were all downstairs, they apologised for all the problems and told us we'd be going home! This was about 12pm.

Unfortunately we couldn't be trusted to walk down a stationary escalator - so they held us for another ten minutes while they didn't manage to get it going - at which point it suddenly became safe - provided we took extra care.

Weren't asked to collect any bags, then piled straight onto the bus bound for Hatton Cross - arriving in time for a very early lunch!
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Old Dec 1, 07, 10:00 am   #5
  
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Hmm, doesn't sound very encouraging at all...
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Old Dec 1, 07, 10:06 am   #6
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Hmm, doesn't sound very encouraging at all...
No, but they do have 4 months to sort it out.
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Old Dec 1, 07, 11:01 am   #7
  
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Hmm, doesn't sound very encouraging at all...
That's why it's called a trial.....an attempt to see where there are issues in the process and try to sort them before going live.
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Old Dec 1, 07, 11:05 am   #8
  
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I keep being told this was "a successful failure"... The whole point of these days is so they can work through all the teething problems before they open

This trial was bigger than the last Saturday one I was at (it even made it onto the radio news this morning!) - and I am sure they had much bigger plans for the day...

And still the checkin concourse area still seemed serene. "About 15h15 on a Wednesday" I was thinking to myself. I want to see them simulate a Friday 18h00 rush hour

Does anyone have any idea how many more large trials there are going to be?
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Old Dec 1, 07, 11:08 am   #9
  
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No, but they do have 4 months to sort it out.
True, and it sounds like biometrics is working better than during the last trial a few weeks ago.

Some thoughts about the comments from today:
  • Fast Track boarding will be available on longhaul flights with more than 225 pax (will double check the numbers next week);
  • The info screens do work, but are on a live feed so would show the real flights due to be in T5 and not the trial flights, so they are switched off;
  • There are ways back up from the gate seating level, but they are further down (in each direction);
  • The immigration area is larger than the current ones, so should suffice;
  • Flight connections is smaller than I expected, but does have more desks than the main centre in T1;
  • The baggage belts are much larger than the ones used now, so 11 multi flight carousels should be ample;
Have been around T5 several times now and each time the progress from the last is marked. Everytime I am more impressed and more confident in the main elements of the building. The trial period is intended to highlight failings and it is no surprise that there are elements that need work, don't let that concern you yet though as there is plenty of time to work on these areas.
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Old Dec 1, 07, 11:14 am   #10
  
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The info screens do work, but are on a live feed so would show the real flights due to be in T5 and not the trial flights, so they are switched off;
I thought the trial flights *were* "real" flights... inasmuchas you can go to checkmytrip.com and see the details...
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Old Dec 1, 07, 11:15 am   #11
  
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I guess I was more concerned with the fact that some of the smaller things that perhaps should have been identified in the earlier trials several months ago don't appear to have been changed.

However from reading Adrian's post I presume the increased numbers of people passing through in the trials as time goes by is also matched by new, T5-virginal members of staff moving over at the same time?
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Old Dec 1, 07, 11:17 am   #12
  
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I thought the trial flights *were* "real" flights... inasmuchas you can go to checkmytrip.com and see the details...
Yes, but they cant be displayed in T1 or T4 for obvious reasons. If the team chose to use a real BA flight that would be on the screens at that time it would show the real gate number, any delay etc and cause confusion in T5.
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Old Dec 1, 07, 11:23 am   #13
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Originally Posted by adrianjc32 View Post
True, and it sounds like biometrics is working better than during the last trial a few weeks ago.

Some thoughts about the comments from today:
  • Fast Track boarding will be available on longhaul flights with more than 225 pax (will double check the numbers next week);
  • The info screens do work, but are on a live feed so would show the real flights due to be in T5 and not the trial flights, so they are switched off;
  • There are ways back up from the gate seating level, but they are further down (in each direction);
  • The immigration area is larger than the current ones, so should suffice;
  • Flight connections is smaller than I expected, but does have more desks than the main centre in T1;
  • The baggage belts are much larger than the ones used now, so 11 multi flight carousels should be ample;
Have been around T5 several times now and each time the progress from the last is marked. Everytime I am more impressed and more confident in the main elements of the building. The trial period is intended to highlight failings and it is no surprise that there are elements that need work, don't let that concern you yet though as there is plenty of time to work on these areas.
Many thanks, [adrianjc32] for those clarifications. I assume you're a worker at LHR? I'm glad you have a lot of confidence from what you've seen first hand.

I'm also glad that the priority boarding will follow some sort of structure, instead of being a half-hearted, haphazard benefit that would quite often be "subject to availibility".

It was the security staff that disappointed me the most, I would have thought they'd have been on their friendliest, most helpful behaviour for the new flagship terminal, especially given that the already much-criticised security procedure is one area that needs addressing for this "enhanced passenger experience".

How naive of me
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Old Dec 1, 07, 11:28 am   #14
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Originally Posted by chris18london View Post
It was the security staff that disappointed me the most, I would have thought they'd have been on their friendliest, most helpful behaviour for the new flagship terminal, especially given that the already much-criticised security procedure is one area that needs addressing for this "enhanced passenger experience".
They are rehearsing for when the whole place goes live - no point in being nice and charming now if they are going to be gorillas when the place opens, is there?

Dave
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Old Dec 1, 07, 11:29 am   #15
  
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Originally Posted by chris18london View Post
It was the security staff that disappointed me the most, I would have thought they'd have been on their friendliest, most helpful behaviour for the new flagship terminal, especially given that the already much-criticised security procedure is one area that needs addressing for this "enhanced passenger experience".

How naive of me
Sadly BAA staff are BAA staff, some are great and others see everyone else (including BA) as the enemy. I too would have thought that they would be able to muster a smile .
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