The idea of a hub at Heathrow may be attractive to those who have never experienced changing planes there. I did in September, having flown from Brussels and onwards to Glasgow through the lovely modern Terminal 5.
I was expecting to savour the feeling of BA’s double page spread in the Sunday Telegraph on 15 September 2013 – ‘To glide. To stride. To breeze through Heathrow Terminal 5….effortlessly…’ I did not have to change terminals, and got back into my own country rather quicker through the transfer channel than I would if I was ending up in London. But then up an escalator to find myself at the wrong end of Security.
The fact that I had been through Security in Brussels cut no ice; everyone must go through again. There were long queues, and most of the security staff had clearly gone home. Of the aisles still open, clearly the staff were told to be as slow and difficult as possible. Shoes and belts off, laptop on a separate box – ‘not with your jacket, stupid!’ – then through the x-ray machine that bleeped on just about every passenger. Empty one’s pockets, with one security person opining that I had too many coins in mine. Up on a stand, no – ‘one foot at a time’ – whilst they studied intently the content of everyone’s bags, coats, shoes and assorted phones, ipads etc in the x ray machines.
All this was done by a group of sullen ‘guards’ who clearly had never set foot in a customer awareness course. The mind boggles at the idea of any of this lot encouraging people to glide or stride! But then, I suspect that their security ‘masters’ (they are probably all male ex services or from the uncontrolled arms of the police force) want to put the fear of God into passengers before being promoted to Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre. One guard helpfully suggested that one should allow two hours for transfer between flights within Terminal 5, so presumably one needs to add one to two hours for transfer to or from other terminals.
So I suggest that it is fanciful to suggest that Heathrow should be expanded to become a bigger hub with three or four runways. That will just compound the problems and delays and, since our security services here have an unrivalled ability to persuade ministers that they need more resources, equipment and staff to protect them and us from some danger they have probably invented themselves, it would be better to allow other airports such as Schiphol, that permit incoming and outgoing passengers to mix, to run hubs as efficiently as they do now, and confine our aspirations to essential journeys in and out by air!