Thursday, May 3, 2012

Headed for Heathrow?

Headed for Heathrow? What you should know

If you are traveling to London this summer for the Olympics or any other reason, you should be aware of how reported chaos and long passenger waits are beginning to damage Britain’s reputation for what has been a long-awaited event.
But that does not mean there is nothing you can do but wait  --  up to three hours in some cases, according to various reports.
"Passengers have complained of frustrating delays…because of lengthy passport and visa checks and an apparent lack of border staff," writes the AP.
Lines could get even worse next week if immigration workers carry out their threatened strike.
London’s Mayor Boris Johnson has warned that passenger delays could hurt the country’s reputation and impair its image on the eve of an event expected to enhance its reputation as a popular destination.
Heathrow typically handles an average of 190,000 arriving and departing passengers each day, but it has been trying to be braced for a major influx during the July 27-August 12 Olympics.
Airport and other officials have long been preparing for the Olympics and their strategies to cope continue amidst the various complaints.
UK Immigration boss Brian Moore told the BBC "the vast majority of passengers pass through immigration control quickly."That’s a claim "that'll be greeted with howls of laughter from anyone who's been stuck in Heathrow's queues for hours on end," writes the Australian Business Traveler.
Johnson said that about 80 per cent of visitors and participants arriving for the Olympics will use Heathrow, which "places short term additional pressures on the system."
Some officials initially blamed the weather for the delays.
Telegraph readers objected strenuously.
"The idea that these delays can be blamed on the weather should be treated with utter derision," wrote one reader.
Way back in January, Yahoo suggested it might be wise to avoid London Heathrow all summer. And they offered some alternatives.
One strategy is to avoid the busiest day to leave London, which is Aug. 13, according to the airport. That’s because Heathrow is expected to see its busiest day as thousands of athletes, entourages and spectators leave London
Other critical dates will include July 16, the peak day for the arrival of athletes, July 26, the day before the opening ceremony and the peak day for the arrival of sponsors and the media. The site also named August 22 and 28, when similar problems will be faced for the Paralympic Games.
They also recommended Amsterdam's airport Schiphol as a modern, friendly alternative that offers excellent rail and air connections across Europe. "Germany's Frankfurt airport is another fantastically efficient choice," the site said.
Two airport alternatives in London are Gatwick and London City, although both are also likely to see increased traffic for the Games.
Still another alternative is Eurostar, the high-speed rail service which connects Paris and Brussels with London via the Channel Tunnel. It also will be operating extra trains during the Olympic period
Consider getting to London via KLM through Amsterdam, Lufthansa via Munich or Frankfurt, Finnair via Helsinki, Brussels Airlines via Brussels, SAS' Scandinavian hubs or even Air France via Paris, suggested the Australian Business Traveler.
Some Asian and Middle East airlines also fly directly from their own hubs to UK regional airports. Emirates has flights to several UK cities, for example.
Finally, the site recommends that visitors consider contacting your airline -- even if your ticket carries change penalties -- and see whether there's extra flexibility because of the circumstances.
By David Wilkening
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